Employers Caught Up in Participation Stats with Health Incentives

October 14, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new survey by a San Francisco health research group found that many organizations are focusing on employee participation rather than improved health in measuring their healthy choice incentives.

A news release from the Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) said encouraging employee participation is seen by employers as the most important goal rather than having healthier workers. Nearly two-thirds of the surveyed employers provide incentive programs for their employees to promote improved health and productivity.

“Our research indicates that employers often aren’t strategic in con­necting the incentives and the disincentives they use with their own views about which ones are most effective,” said Thomas Parry, president of IBI, in the news release. “Rather than focus on improved health-related outcomes, which is far more important to an employers’ bottom line, the most frequent program goal often is limited to encouraging employee participation in health and productivity programs.”

Only 19% use disincentives – penalizing employees who fail to cooperate in health and productivity programs. Employers use cash-based and benefits-related strategies most frequently. Prizes and gifts are less common, while salary and job disincentives are only used by a few.

According to the announcement, “substantial sums” are invested in incentives and disincentives programs, with about 50% of respondents investing more than $200 per participant, per year, and more than one in five valuing them at more than $400 annually. More than 40% said they will increase the dollar value of their incentive-based programs.

Harris Interactive conducted the Web-based survey during the summer of 2007. The respondents consist of 500 employers represent­ing approximately 5 million employees. More than 28% of the participating employers are involved in manufacturing; almost 76% indicated that their financial performance had grown in the past year and more than 40% were public, for-profit organizations.

The report is available here .