Employers Using Open Enrollment to Preach Healthy Lifestyles

February 21, 2008 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A new Watson Wyatt survey has found that more than half of employers polled have integrated systems to encourage healthy employee behavior into their benefits enrollment programs.

A Watson Wyatt news release said the poll of117 U.S. companies in December 2007 at the end of the annual enrollment process found that 53% have already opted (or plan to do so by 2009) for the benefits enrollment tie-in with efforts to encourage workers to live healthier lifestyles.More than one-third (36%) use enrollment systems to encourage employees to sign up for disease management programs or will do so by 2009.

“Open enrollment marks the one time each year in which most employees’ attention is focused on their benefits programs,” said Jeri Stepman, Watson Wyatt’s national leader for health and welfare administration, in the news release. “Including behavior-change information and decision-support tools directly in the enrollment process can make a big difference in the number of people who sign up for wellness programs and take them seriously. Sending out information on healthy behaviors and asking employees to take the initiative is not nearly as effective.”

Watson Wyatt said despite these efforts, however, most employers have yet to make much progress in integrating their enrollment systems with other benefits-related resources, such as linking directly to an external health plan provider or health savings account/flexible spending account administrator.

Although 67% have integrated their enrollment system with their HR portal or Intranet, only 27% have tied it into their health care provider’s system, which often contains robust information on disease management and healthy lifestyles. One out of three (30%) has not integrated their enrollment system with any other system.

More information is here .