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Poor Health Takes Financial Toll on Employees
 

By Stephen Miller  11/6/2009
 

Working Americans who say they are in fair or poor health are likely to be in worse financial shape than their healthier counterparts, according to the 7th annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends. For example:

59 percent of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor say they live paycheck to paycheck, vs. 34 percent of people in very good or excellent health.

70 percent of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor are very concerned about making ends meet, vs. 52 percent of people in very good or excellent health.

76 percent of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor are very concerned about affording health care in retirement, vs. 57 percent of people in very good or excellent health.

“Fortunately, employers are increasingly recognizing the value to all stakeholders of a healthy workforce and viewing wellness programs as an investment to help address their business objectives of employee retention and productivity while simultaneously controlling costs,” says Ronald Leopold, M.D., vice president, U.S. Business, MetLife. “While medical coverage is an important component of a financial safety net, health insurance is not health assurance.

In fact, the MetLife study found that employees who assess their health as fair or poor have medical coverage through the workplace at nearly the same rates of those with very good or excellent health.”

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Health insurance is not health assurance.
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The number of employers offering wellness programs in the workplace is growing but at a slower rate than one might expect given that the vast majority of U.S. employers (94 percent) agree that wellness programs can be at least somewhat effective in reducing medical costs. The survey found that:

•  One-third (33 percent) of U.S. employers offer a wellness program to their employees, up from about one-fourth (27 percent) in 2005.

•  A little more than half (57 percent) of large employers, those with 500 or more employees, have implemented a workplace wellness program, up from 46 percent in 2005.

•  Nearly half of employees (46 percent) say they avail themselves of their employer’s wellness program when offered.

The top motivator for employees’ participation? They want “good health,” cited by nearly three-quarters of wellness program participants. The second greatest motivating factor varies by gender—men cite the financial incentives their employer provides while women say they want to minimize medical expenses.

“Good health is its own reward and a strong inducement for employees to take advantage of workplace wellness programs,” adds Leopold.

MetLife surveyed employers and employees in August 2008 and November 2008. More than 1,500 interviews were conducted with benefits decision-makers at companies with two or more employees, representing a mix of industries and geographic regions, and more than 1,300 interviews were conducted with full-time employees, age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees.

Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

Economic Fears Increase Unhealthy Behaviors Among Employed, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, November 2009

Why Employee Well-Being Matters to Your Bottom Line, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, October 2009 

'Tectonic Plates' and the ROI of Health Benefit Programs, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, October 2009

Finding Wellness' Return on Investment, HR Magazine, June 2008

The ROI of Wellness Programs: From Perk to Priority Investment, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, January 2007

Wellness: Designing an Effective Wellness Program, Step by Step, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, January 2007

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