Workers Value Wellness Programs, Employers not yet on Board

January 8, 2008 ( - The recent Principal Financial Well-Being Index found workers believe wellness programs are beneficial, but many do not yet have access to wellness programs at their workplace.

According to a Principal press release, a number of factors encourage workers to participate in wellness benefit programs, including better overall health (54%), reducing their own health care costs (53%), and a chance to live a longer life (40%).

Yet the survey found employers have been slow to fully embrace wellness program, the release said. Just one in seven workers (14%) reported having access to educational tools and fitness center discounts and even fewer (10%) said they have on-site health screenings available through work.

“All signs point to the positive benefits of wellness programs and employees get it; yet many employers still haven’t taken the leap,” said Jerry Ripperger, national practice leader of consumer health for the Principal Financial Group, in the release.

Wellness programs should be viewed as an investment rather than an expense, the Principal said. Based on methodology validated by Milliman, Inc., a health care consulting firm, wellness programs from Principal Wellness Company show a 2-to-1 return on investment for employers. The positive results are cumulative over time so the longer the program is in place, the more potential it has to impact an employer’s bottom line.

Workers were asked to rate their interest in a new employer health insurance plan which contains a wellness component. Nearly half of workers (45%) expressed some level of interest in a plan where workers would be required to complete a health risk assessment and wellness screening, with the results and promises to complete wellness programs tied to lower deductibles and co-pays.

Beyond the issue of wellness programs, when choosing a health plan option, the Principal found flexibility to choose networks, doctors, and facilities within the plan is declining in importance (23% compared to 31% in 2006), while cost seems to be a driving factor. One-quarter of respondents indicated they made decisions based on their monthly paycheck deduction, and roughly one in five (18%) made the decision based on the deductible amount, an increase from 2006 findings.

This Principal Financial Well-Being Index survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Principal Financial Group between October 22 and October 30, 2007 among 1,154 employees and 514 retirees.