Getting health plan participants to take the first step toward improving their health is often a daunting task for plan sponsors. Standard financial incentives don’t always work. But a new study has found another carrot that may help.
What is it? Encouraging employees to channel their inner gambler.
Where it all begins
A key first step in the implementation of many wellness programs is getting employees to complete health risk assessments (HRAs).
The problem: Without an incentive, employees won’t take them. Cutting employees a check helps, but it’s often not enough.
But a recent study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion suggests employers take another path: Create group lotteries.
A breakdown of the study reported by the Health Behavior News Service, part of
the Center for Advancing Health, revealed that enrolling HRA participants into a lottery for a chance to win a large cash prize worked better than offering every participant a smaller — but guaranteed — payout.
The study split nearly 1,300 employees from the same company into three groups:
- In the first group, $25 was offered to everyone who completed an HRA.
- Each employee in the second group was offered $25 cash and a $25 grocery gift card for completing an HRA, and
- Employees in the third group were broken into lottery teams of four to eight people. Each week, a lottery team would be selected at random and each team member from the selected group who filled out an HRA would win $100. And if 80% of the team completed an HRA, the prize increased to $125.
Note: The cumulative cost of the incentives offered to the second and third groups was the same.
- 40% of group one — the cash-only group — completed an HRA
- 42% of group two completed an HRA, and
- 65% of group three — the lottery group — completed an HRA.
Source: “Team Lotteries Motivate Employees to Participate in Wellness Programs,” by Katherine Kahn, Health Behavior News Service, 1/5/11.