Spending on Wellness Incentives Up 15% in 2014

Average wellness incentives almost $600 per employee

By Stephen Miller, CEBS February 24, 2014

In 2014 corporate employers plan to spend an average of $594 per employee on wellness-based incentives within their health care programs, according to a November-December 2013 employer survey by Fidelity Investmentsand the nonprofit National Business Group on Health (NBGH). This marks an increase of 15 percent from the reported average of $521 in 2013 and is more than double the average of $260 reported five years ago.

The largest increase was among companies with fewer than 5,000 workers, where the per-employee average climbed to $595, one-third higher than the average of $444 per employee in 2013.

The most popular wellness programs continue to be focused on lifestyle management, such as physical activity, weight management and stress management. Other popular health-improvement options include:

    • Disease/care management programs (e.g., managing chronic health conditions, like diabetes)
    • Lifestyle-management services (weight-loss advice, gym-membership discounts)
    • Health-risk management services (onsite flu shots)
    • Environmental enhancements (bike racks, walking paths).

According to the survey, 95 percent of companies plan to offer a health-improvement program for their employees, and the percentage of organizations offering incentives to participate in these initiatives has jumped from 57 percent in 2009 to 74 percent in 2014.

When asked about ongoing funding for wellness-based incentive programs, 93 percent of companies indicated they plan to expand or maintain funding over the next three to five years. And 44 percent of respondents plan to maintain or increase their investment in wellness programs even if their organization moves away from direct involvement in employer-sponsored health coverage, such as by switching to a private-exchange model to provide employee health benefits.

Incentives for Spouses/Partners

As the design of wellness programs evolves, an increasing number of companies are expanding wellness-based incentives to include spouses and domestic partners. Nearly 4 out of 10 companies surveyed (37 percent) indicated their program will include spouses and domestic partners in 2014, and the average spouse/domestic partner incentive is expected to reach $530—more than $100 higher than the average of $420 in 2010.

When analyzing the data by company size, the results showed that employers with more than 20,000 workers expect to spend an average of $611 on spouses/domestic partners in 2014.

Incentives Through HSAs

Although many employers offer incentives via cash or a gift card, an increasing number offer them through an employer-sponsored health savings account (HSA), a flexible spending account (FSA) or a similar care-based savings vehicle. More than a third (34 percent) plan to contribute to the HSA or FSA of employees who enroll in a disease- or care-management program, and 33 percent will offer a similar incentive for workers who participate in a stress-management program.

Three out of 10 employers (30 percent) plan to contribute to the HSA or FSA of those who enroll in a weight-management program.

The survey was fielded among a national sample of large companies across a range of industries.

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

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