HR Management & Compliance

Wellness Tipping Point—Employees Now Care About Costs

There’s been general agreement that wellness programs are effective at reducing employer healthcare costs, but survey results show that healthcare costs now matter to employees—something that’s been missing up to this point.

The survey, the Principal Financial Well-Being Indexsm, covered more than 1,600 employees and retirees at growing businesses with 10-1,000 employees. Released in early 2008, it was conducted by The Principal Financial Group® and Harris Interactive®.

Tipping Point

“We’ve reached a tipping point,” says Jerry Ripperger, national practice leader of consumer health for the Principal Financial Group. “It’s one of the first times we’ve seen such an emphasis on cost savings, which shows workers are increasingly considering health cost as a major factor in health care.”

When workers become personally involved in their own wellness, he notes, workers and employers alike begin to see a big impact.

Corporate wellness programs show great ROI. And, as one expert noted, there’s little downside—even small improvements make a difference. Check out BLR’s comprehensive Total Workplace Wellness Program—a guidebook, newsletters, and PowerPoints® updated quarterly—at no cost or risk. Read more.

Employers Slow to Respond

In spite of what appear to be obvious advantages, the survey found that most American workplaces are not providing wellness programs. In fact, just one in seven workers (14%) has access to educational tools and fitness center discounts, and even fewer (10%) have on-site health screenings available.

“All signs point to the positive benefits of wellness programs, and employees get it; yet many employers still haven’t taken the leap,” says Ripperger. He suggests that employers consider wellness as an investment, not an expense.

Cost King over Flexibility and Choice

“Workers are willing to sacrifice choice and flexibility to save cash,” says Ripperger. Flexibility to choose networks, doctors, and facilities is declining in importance (23% compared to 31% in the prior year) while cost seems to be growing in importance, the survey showed. One-quarter of participants said they based their choice of a plan on the monthly paycheck deduction, and about 18% said they made the decision based on the deductible amount, a significant increase from the prior year.

The key point is that workers are now seeing that they can reduce their personal costs for health care by participating in wellness programs. (50% of surveyed workers agreed, the survey found.)

In addition, participants believed that wellness programs would give them better overall health (54%) and a chance to live a longer life (40%).

Check out BLR’s comprehensive Total Workplace Wellness Program at no cost or risk. Find out more.

How About a Discount for a Health Assessment?

Workers were asked whether they would be interested in a program that would lower premiums if they participated in a health assessment. The deal was that if the assessment found no illnesses or at-risk behaviors, the worker would get the discount; if the assessment did turn up an illness or at-risk behavior, the worker would get the discount if he or she agreed to make the necessary health improvements by working with a wellness coach. Forty-five percent of respondents indicated some degree of interest.

Remember, that if you demand health changes in order to get a discount, you are in tricky territory legally and should get competent help to put your plan together.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll look at a Cornell University wellness survey, and at a unique new wellness program from BLR®.