Not a Member?  Become One Today!

 
Employers Not Maximizing Wellness Incentives
 

By Stephen Miller, CEBS  6/6/2014

Eighty-seven percent of employees say wellness programs positively impact company culture and 96 percent are participating in them to improve their own health, according to the 2014 Survey of Workplace Health Priorities by Virgin Pulse, a wellness program provider.

Despite these findings, many employers are struggling to commit to and measure their wellness strategies, and nearly half  (43 percent) aren’t planning to take full advantage of higher incentive limits under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Monetary incentives covered by the statute and a June 2013 final rule include rewards—such as a discount or rebate of a premium contribution and a waiver of all or part of a cost-sharing mechanism including deductibles, co-payments or co-insurances—and penalties such as a surcharge or other disincentives. The final rule implements ACA provisions that:

  • For a health-contingent wellness program offered in connection with a group health plan (and any related health insurance coverage), increase the maximum permissible reward or penalty ncrease the maximum permissible reward or penalty from 20 percent to 30 percent of the total annual cost (premiums) of individual-only coverage.

  • For wellness programs designed to prevent or reduce tobacco use, increase the maximum permissible reward or penalty to 50 percent of the cost of individual coverage premiums.

Despite access to financial incentives, a wellness program budget remains a challenge for many organizations.

Among other survey findings:

  • Measurement remains a significant challenge. Thirty percent of employers are dissatisfied with measurement strategies, and many organizations are Thirty percent of employers are dissatisfied with measurement strategies, and many organizations are Thirty percent of employers are dissatisfied with measurement strategies, and many organizations are not tracking key areas: 48 percent are not tracking enhanced engagement, and more than half (53 percent) don’t track improved productivity.

  • Employees want more. Employers are not meeting employee demand for access to physical activity programs, healthy food choices, and onsite gym facilities or fitness classes.

"Treating people with chronic conditions accounts for 84 percent of what is spent on health care,” said Ken Thorpe, chairman of the nonprofit Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. "There is an undeniably strong link between the vitality of an organization and the health and wellness of its employees, resulting in increased job morale, satisfaction, commitment and performance. We can and must do a lot better addressing these important issues."

Virgin Pulse surveyed 361 organizations and 3,822 employees.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMsmiller.

Quick Links:

 

Compensation & Benefits e-Newsletter:
To subscribe to SHRM's Compensation & Benefits
e-newsletter, click below.
Sign Up Now

 

Copyright Image Obtain reuse/copying permission