A recent study found that employers with extensive disease management or wellness programs are reaping substantial returns.
Nearly two-thirds of employers that have measured the return on their investment in health management/wellness programs say they are satisfied with the year-over-year savings, lower utilization rates or improved health risks their programs have generated.
In fact, for the second year in a row, a Mercer study of more than 2,800 employers found that medical plan cost increases in 2010 were an average of two percentage points lower among employers with extensive health-improvement programs than among those employers who offered no such programs or offered them on a limited basis.
Some of the most popular things employers are offering under these plans:
- disease management programs (offered by 73%)
- health risk assessments (69%), and
- behavior modification programs (50%).
And to get — and keep — employees involved in health management/wellness initiatives, employers are upping the ante when it comes to incentives for participation.
In fact, 27% of large employers with health management programs provided incentives in 2010, up from 21% in 2009 — and the incentives are becoming more substantial.
Example: Just a few years ago, company apparel or branded merchandise was the “in” thing to give away. Today, money is doing the talking — as companies now provide anything from $75 in cash incentives to reductions in premium contributions (typically in the $180 range).
Another trend that’s catching on, especially among larger employers: punishing smokers.
In 2010, 28% of companies employing 20,000 or more workers charged smokers more for healthcare coverage than nonsmokers — up from 23% in 2009.