7 in 10 employers offer wellness benefits

 of BenefitsPro reports that 7 in 10 employers provide wellness benefits, including flu shots, health screenings and weight management programs. This was reported by the International Foundation of Employee Plans in their recent survey, Wellness Programs and Value-Based Health Care. The survey shows the growing popularity of wellness programs over the past 10 years, despite the economy.

  • 60% of respondents say they have implemented new wellness programs since 2008.
  • 23.7 %t of respondents have begun offering them since 2010.
  • 66% have  increased their wellness budgets over the past five years.

What’s the ROI?

ROI has been difficult to measure. Julie Stich, senior information and research specialist, International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans notes that determining ROI can be of great benefit for employers  and can lead to increased buy-in from employers and employees. However, she says that it’s not an easy process. “ROI can be difficult to measure since health improvement may be influenced by a combination of factors and because it takes an average of three years to see cost-saving results.”

21.6% of respondents analyzed the return on investment. Those who did found health care costs declined when wellness benefits are also offered:

  • 83% report positive returns.
  • Most realize between $1 and $3 decreases in overall health care costs.

Why Offer Wellness?

50.7% of respondents who do not provide wellness programs but plan to implement them over the next year say their motivation for doing so is to control health care costs. However, the top reasons given by respondents who do offer wellness are:

  • 45.6%: to help workers attain better physical health.
  • 39.8%: to control health care costs.

What Programs Are Offered?

The most popular wellness benefits are:

  • Screening and treatment programs – 85%.
  • Health risk assessments  – 79.9%.
  • Smoking cessation programs – 67.5%.
  • Fitness and nutrition programs – 58.6%.
  • Weight loss and and management programs – 52.5%.
  • Nutrition counseling – 39.6%.
  • On-site fitness centers and equipment – 36.4%:

Participation Rates

One measure of success for a wellness program is the participation rate, and this is important to employers because they will not realize benefits unless there is sufficient participation. To increase participation, 38% of respondents reported using gift cards and gift certificates,  36.7% used insurance premium reductions, 30.0% offered noncash incentives and 26.9% used cash rewards.

The highest areas of participation rates are:

  • Flu shot programs -49.6%.
  • Health screenings – 48.8%.
  • Health risk assessments – 48.2.
  • Health fairs – 44.7%.

New Ideas

Since wellness is an increasingly important focus in employee benefits, health insurance providers and employers will need to focus on new, more creative ways and solutions to encourage participation.  For instance, employees are increasingly turning to mobile phones and social media sites to help make wellness easier.

More than 70% of employee participants in wellness programs say they want wellness information and tips delivered on-the-go according to a survey by  IncentaHEALTH —which operates incentive-based wellness programs for employers and communities— of over 2,000 employee participants in its wellness programs.

Gathering Nuts In May?

Since May is Global Employee Health and Fitness month – an initiative launched by the National Association for Health & Fitness and ACTIVE Life – The National Association for Health & Fitness and ACTIVE Life are also offering resources such as a toolkit and guidelines for “healthy meetings.”

According to the website for the program, from 1989-2010, tens of thousands of employees engaged in National Employee Health & Fitness Day.  Global Employee Health and Fitness Month has now been extended to a month-long initiative in an effort to “generate sustainability for a healthy lifestyle and initiate healthy activities on an ongoing basis.”

Health care providers such as Kaiser Permanente are stepping up with their own wellness resources tailored to help patients and the general public get healthy. The provider announced Monday it is offering a mobile app for the general public that assists with walking and exercise, and the new Thrive Across America mobile app is for Kaiser Permanente HealthWorks subscribers.

More articles on wellness programs:

7 steps to introducing a wellness program

5 ways to improve your wellness program: slideshow

70 companies named ‘Healthiest in America’

Snap! principle of Wellness Program:

Wellness programs are the next big, healthy wave.