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Mid-Size Firms Saw Surge in Wellness Programs
 

By Stephen Miller, CEBS  4/29/2014

Among large employers in the U.S. with 1,000 or more workers, 58 percent offered wellness programs last year; overall, however, just over 19 percent of employers provide some sort of wellness offering, according to newly released findings from United Benefit Advisors' 2013 UBA Health Plan Survey of nearly 1,000 employers.

A key development revealed by the survey was a jump in wellness offerings by mid-size employers with 100 to 199 workers. Among these companies, the prevalence of wellness programs grew by approximately 12.5 percent last year—double that of any other employer size subset.

Another insight: Employers that provide consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) continued to outpace employers who provide traditional health coverage when it comes to teaming their plans with wellness programs. Among organizations with CDHPs, 27 percent offered wellness initiatives.

Among those employers with wellness programs, the most popular components were:

  • Health risk assessments (81 percent of respondents).
  • Incentive awards (62 percent).
  • Physical exams (61 percent).

The programs that saw the biggest increase were:

  • Coaching (56 percent—a 5 percent increase).
  • Online wellness portals (55 percent—a 5 percent increase).

The Right Message

“The key to successful wellness with high employee engagement is to develop programs employees actually want to participate in,” said Lisa Weston, director of employee wellness promotion for The Bagnall Co., a UBA partner firm. “Carefully planned wellness programs can be extremely effective, but you must assess employee’s needs with a health risk assessment or biometric data and also assess their desires with interest and incentive surveys,” she noted.

“The goal is to offer something for everyone, make it appealing and very accessible,” Weston said. "Of course, constant benefit communication is also a key element to success, because in order to use these programs, employees have to know about them."

“Moving toward prevention-based care will be the key that helps both employers and employees pull health care costs back from the edge of crisis over the long term,” added Rob Calise, UBA board chairman, in the same release. “Value is placed on return on investment in the long run, which can be measured in terms of worker productivity. The question employers should ask themselves is, ‘What target am I trying to hit?’ Then they should plan their program accordingly.”

Survey results revealed that interest in wellness programs increased in all industry groups with the exception of wholesale/retail, which also experienced the highest rates of employee turnover.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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