More Employers Tying Premiums to Wellness

April 18, 2013 ( – More employers are penalizing employees for not engaging in healthy behaviors, a survey suggests.

Around one-third of employers (34%) offering wellness programs either provide insurance discounts for employees participating in such programs or impose penalties on employees with risk factors, who are not taking action, an increase from 25.4% in 2009, according to “Compdata Surveys Benefits USA 2012/2013.” The survey found such measures are becoming increasingly common for employers looking to combat the rising cost of health care.

Twenty-eight percent of organizations reported they make medical premium contributions for employees who participate in their wellness programs, an increase from 16.7% reported three years ago. Health savings account (HSA) and health reimbursement account (HRA) contributions are used by 27.6% of employers to reward employees for participating in wellness programs. Offering gift cards is used by nearly 42% of employers.

“The average premium increase on employer sponsored PPO plans has been between 9% and 11% each year since 2009,” said Amy Kaminski, vice president for Compdata Surveys. “With premiums rising at such an exponential rate, employers are desperate to find ways to slash insurance costs, and improving employee health is one of the most promising ways to accomplish this. Employees, however, need to feel making these efforts is worth their while, which is where penalties for non-participation and rewards for taking part in wellness programs come into play.”

The survey also found tobacco cessation programs and flu shot/immunizations are offered to employees as wellness options at 62.7% and 90.9% of organizations surveyed, respectively.

The survey analyzed national and regional data on benefits eligibility and administration policies with detailed information on benefit plans, premiums and provisions. Information was collected from more than 4,500 benefit plans covering more than 13 million employees across the country. 

Information about purchasing the survey report is at