Benefits

Employers Control Health Care Costs with Wellness Initiatives

By Rebecca Moore editors@plansponsor.com | May 09, 2012
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May 9, 2012 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Seven in 10 American employers offer wellness initiatives, according to the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ survey "Wellness Programs and Value-Based Health Care."

While wellness programs have existed for decades, their prevalence has grown significantly over the past 10 years. Nearly 60% of American employers implementing new wellness programs since 2008; 23.7% have started offering them since 2010. Additionally, nearly two-thirds of organizations increased their wellness budgets in the last five years.  

The survey suggests a definite decrease in health care costs when wellness initiatives are offered, according to the 21.6% who have analyzed return on investment. Of the organizations that are analyzing ROI, 83% indicated a positive return. For every dollar spent on wellness initiatives, most organizations see between $1 to $3 decreases in their overall health care costs.   

According to the survey, the most prevalent reasons that organizations provide wellness initiatives are to help workers enjoy better overall physical health (45.6%) and to control health care costs (39.8%). Of the respondents who presently do not have wellness programs but plan to implement them within the next 12 months, 50.7% cite controlling health care costs as their motivation for adding the initiatives.  

Screening and treatment programs including flu shots (85%), health risk assessments (79.9%) and smoking cessation programs (67.5%) are some of the most popular wellness initiatives offered. Employers also make available fitness and nutrition programs such as walking/fitness challenges (58.6%), weight loss/management programs (52.5%), nutrition counseling (39.6%) and on-site fitness centers/equipment (36.4%).