Employers Strive to Help Employees Gain Financial Wellness

Sixty-one percent of employers have adopted consumer directed health plans, which provide a personal savings account to offset employee’s deductibles. Employers are expanding health and wellness programs, or implementing cost sharing for some benefits, according to a survey by Prudential.

Brokers say that their roles are being affected by rising healthcare costs and healthcare reform, changing regulations, expanding web technology, and rising competition from non-traditional players. They say that their most important business objectives are retaining customers, increasing productivity and efficiency, and increasing customer satisfaction. Most employees say that voluntary benefits increase the value of their benefit program, even if the employee doesn’t participate. This varies by generation, with a greater percentage of Millennials finding value.

Employers Struggle to Balance Benefit Costs With Attracting Talent

High performing large and mid-size employers are more strategic in managing employee health costs, according to a study by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. (Mid-size employers are defined as having 100 to 999 full-time employees and large employers are defined at 1,000 or more.) The survey reveals the following:

Have a defined contribution philosophy:

  • 38% of percent of high performing mid-size employers versus 29% of their peers.
  • 52% of large high performing employers versus 35% of their peers.

Rate improving employee health as a top-three human resource challenge:

  • 18% of high performing midsize employers ranked versus 9% of their peers.
  • 41% of high performing larger employers versus 16% of their peers.

Offer flexible work schedules:

  • 66% of high performing mid-size employers versus 50% of their peers.
  • 68% of high performing large employers versus 47% of their peers.

Have a wellness program:

  • 85% of high performing midsize employers versus 42% of their peers.
  • 98% of high performing large employers versus 61% of their peers.

Promote employees’ long-term financial security:

  • 59% of high performing midsize employers versus 29% of their peers.
  • 65% of high performing large employers versus 32% of their peers.

Workplace Wellness: One Size Fits Few

An International Foundation study uncovered insights from successful wellness programs. The study looked at return-on-investment and value-of-investment (VOI). With ROI, employers use financial measures, such as health care cost savings, to justify their investment in wellness programs. With VOI, employers also include factors like employee morale, workplace productivity, employee absence, and workplace safety. The study reveals the following hints from successful programs:

  • Employers with a positive wellness ROI are slightly more likely to offer wellness plans to control health costs.
  • Employers with positive wellness ROI and VOI are more likely to have been offering wellness initiatives for longer than average time and have budgets dedicated to wellness. VOI results may be noticeable more quickly after implementation.
  • Less-tenured programs have higher participation rates in some initiatives, suggesting that it may be a good idea to keep programs fresh.
  • Employers with positive wellness ROI provide more screening, treatment, fitness and nutrition initiatives. On the other hand, employers with great workplace cultures tend to provide more total well-being initiatives. Employers with positive wellness VOI tend to provide more of all types of initiatives.
  • Employers with positive wellness ROI and VOI are more likely to have prepared general pictures of their health plan status, offer incentives and insurance-based incentive programs, and target programs and communication based on worker health risks.

2015 Study Reveals Gaps in Wellness Programs

Fifty-three percent of about 6,000 consumers who were enrolled in health plans in 2015 say it’s not easy to understand their health information or how to maintain or improve their health, according to HealthMine’s research. Forty-six percent of consumers with a chronic condition discovered their illness through a wellness program. The study also revealed the following about consumers:

  • Less than one third know their key health metrics including their blood pressure, cholesterol, BMI, and blood sugar.
  • 53% can’t access all of their clinical health data from a computer. Another 39% can’t access all of their clinical and behavioral (collected by apps/trackers) health data from a single source.
  • 53% say it’s not easy to understand their health information or how to maintain or improve their health.
  • 55% want help from their healthcare plan in setting personal health goals. Another 65% want reminders about critical health actions, such as prescription refills and annual health exams.
  • 44% stay engaged in their wellness program throughout the year while 27% say that lack of time keeps them from engaging.
  • 55% say that wellness incentives have not been not meaningful, and little more than half actually earn all of their available incentives each year.
  • 38% say their wellness program helps them manage their costs.
  • 81% of wellness programs do not include a price comparison tool.

For more information, visit www.healthmine.com.

Wellness Programs Effective in Uncovering Chronic Diseases

Twenty-eight percent of 750 participants in sponsored wellness programs have been diagnosed with a chronic condition in the past two years. And 46% of them discovered their chronic illness through a wellness program, according to a HealthMine survey. Seventy-four percent of employees surveyed say wellness programs should include genetic testing as a way to identify risk for chronic conditions. Some large insurers have already begun to incorporate genetic testing into their wellness programs, even as program sponsors await pending regulation over privacy and other protections. Most consumers also want plan sponsors to offer health screenings, which can detect risk factors and uncover chronic illness. In fact, 74% of respondents said they would participate in vision screenings; 73% would complete a blood pressure screening; and 69% want a cholesterol screening.

Wellness program sees success cutting chronic disease risk, trimming waistlines

University of Pittsburgh researchers said the work-based Group Lifestyle Balance program tested at Bayer MaterialScience helped employees reduce their risk of diabetes and heart disease. The program was based on the National Diabetes Prevention Program used mainly in community settings, and at the end of one year, workers who participated lost an average 5% of body weight and doubled their physical activity. The study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (5/26

Why Employees Don’t Stick With Wellness Initiatives

Why Employees Don’t Stick With Wellness Initiatives
While most employees like wellness programs and feel they help them manage their health, many don’t stay engaged in their programs throughout the year, according to a survey of 1,929 employees by HealthMine.

Less than half of employees stay engaged in their wellness program throughout the entire year.

Employees lack critical information about their personal health. Less than one third know at least one of their key health metrics, which can indicate risk for chronic illness. For example, only 32% of people know their blood pressure. A majority of employees have difficulty interpreting their health information or understanding how to maintain or improve their health.

Eighty-five percent want better information about their risk of chronic disease. Plus, the majority want to know which cancer screenings they need, and the actions they need to maintain or improve their health.

Eighty percent want incentives for wellness. More than half want help from their plan sponsors in setting personal health goals. Even though 30% have been diagnosed with a chronic condition in the last year, most are not getting help with disease management or medication adherence through their wellness programs.

While 70% say their wellness plan helps them manage their health, just 38% say it helps them manage healthcare costs. Even though most consumers agree it’s a good idea to shop for the best deal on medical services before taking action on their health, most never do.

Employers Miss the Boat When Evaluating Wellness Programs

Seventy-two percent of employers measure the effectiveness of their wellness program, but only 37% evaluate whether it actually reduces health care costs, according to a study by WorldatWork and HealthMine. Disease management programs offer the biggest opportunity to save on long-term health care costs. But 43% of workplace wellness programs don’t include disease management. What’s more, 81% of employers don’t offer incentives for employees who participate in disease management programs or penalties for those who don’t. Consumers overwhelmingly want employer incentives. According to a 2014 RAND study, disease management can deliver 74% greater ROI per member than lifestyle management.

Fifty percent of employers don’t provide incentives for smoking cessation or penalties for continuing to smoke. Sixty-three percent of consumers say that employees who smoke should pay more for health insurance.

Survey: Employees say wellness programs are valuable

A survey from HR software company GuideSpark showed 70% of employees said corporate wellness programs were valuable but only 9% took full advantage of them. Main reasons for not participating in wellness activities included being too busy, having a program that did not fit with employee lifestyles and being unaware of all of the company’s wellness options. EBN (12/30)

Wellness Programs Can Cut Costs, but Only for Certain Workers

Workplace wellness programs can lower health care costs for those with chronic diseases, but some components of the programs may not reduce health costs or lead to lower net savings, according to a RAND Corporation study. The results are published in the January edition of the Journal Health Affairs.The study looks at PepsiCo’s Healthy Living wellness program over seven years. The program includes health risk assessments, on-site wellness events, lifestyle management, disease management, complex care management, and a nurse advice phone line.

Efforts to help employees manage chronic illnesses saved $3.78 in health care costs for every $1 invested. However, people who participated in the lifestyle management program reported a small reduction in absenteeism, but there was no significant effect on health care costs.

In contrast, the disease management program reduced costs among participants by $136 per member per month, or $1,632 annually. There was a 29% drop in hospital admissions. RAND researchers say that with any prevention effort, it is often easier to achieve cost savings in people with higher baseline spending, as found among those in the disease management program. Interestingly, disease management participants who also joined the lifestyle management program experienced much higher savings at $160 per month with a 66% drop in hospital admissions. This suggests that proper targeting can improve the financial performance of lifestyle management programs. For more information, visithttp://www.rand.org/newsletters.html

Last Updated 05/25/2022

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