Employees Willing to Engage in Wellness

January 9, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The use of account-based plans and health and wellness programs appear to be effective in motivating employees to take action to better understand and improve their health.

An increasing number of employers offer account-based plans, commonly known as consumer-driven health plans, as a way for consumers to take more responsibility for managing their health and related costs, according to Aon Hewitt’s “The Consumer Health Mindset” survey. Seventy-eight percent of employees currently enrolled in account-based plans report they are satisfied with the plans, and 89% expect to re-enroll in this option for 2013. For workers who have been enrolled in an account-based plan for two or more years, nearly all (97%) plan to re-enroll.   

The survey indicates that consumer involvement in account-based plans may correlate to positive health behaviors. Sixty percent of employees who are enrolled in these types of plans say they have made positive behavior changes related to their health. Specifically, 28% say they receive routine preventative care more often, 23% seek lower-cost health care options and 19% research health costs more frequently.   

When asked if they would participate in a wellness program, the survey found that up to half of consumers said they would participate with no financial incentive as long the program is easy and convenient. Sixty-three percent of consumers say they would complete a health risk questionnaire (HRQ) for a monetary reward, and 62% would participate in a healthy eating or weight management programs. Nearly half (48%) would participate in a medically sponsored program to help them manage a health condition.

To help consumers achieve their health-related goals, employers are willing to offer incentives for actions that take more work. More than one-half (58%) of employers surveyed offer some form of incentive for completing a lifestyle modification program (for example, to quit smoking or lose weight). Additionally, about one-quarter of organizations report offering incentives (monetary or nonmonetary) for making progress toward meeting acceptable ranges for biometric measures such as blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), blood sugar and cholesterol.  

The survey findings indicate HRQs are a valuable way to help consumers get an accurate picture of their overall health and receive targeted feedback to help them improve their well-being. Of the workers who were offered an HRQ and received suggested action steps based on their results, four out of five (86%) took some action. Further, nearly two-thirds (65%) made at least one lifestyle improvement as a result.    


“The Consumer Health Mindset” survey found some misperceptions among employees. An overwhelming majority of employees (87%) said their health is good, and less than one-quarter (23%) said they are overweight or obese. Yet, more than half (53%) of those consumers who report being in good health actually reported height and weight that categorize them in the BMI overweight or obese categories.   

“Employees want to be healthy, but many have an overly rosy perception of their health and may not see an urgent need to take action,” said Joann Hall Swenson, health engagement leader at Aon Hewitt.

Workers are equally misinformed when it comes to understanding what the employer pays for their health care. According to a recent Aon Hewitt analysis, total health care costs per employee were $10,522 in 2012, and employers’ share of that cost was $8,318 (see “Record Low Health Cost Increases Recorded in 2012”). However, when asked how much of the bill their employer pays, respondents to “The Consumer Health Mindset” guessed approximately half of the cost.  

“These survey results underscore the challenges employers face as they seek to engage employees and their families in health improvement as a means to better managing rising health care costs,” said Helen Darling, president and CEO of the National Business Group on Health. “It is critical for employers to bridge the knowledge gap evident in this survey.”  

Aon Hewitt, the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company surveyed more than 2,800 employees and their dependents covered by employer health plans to determine their perspectives, behaviors and attitudes towards health and wellness.