Employees leave millions in wellness incentives on the table, despite increased corporate spending

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Employers are expanding their corporate health improvement and wellness programs to improve employee health and create a more positive workplace culture, but many employees aren't taking full advantage of these programs. The latest survey on wellness programs from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) reveals employers will spend an average of $693 per employee on wellness-based incentives in 2015, up from $594 in 2014 and $430 five years ago.


Based on responses from 121 companies surveyed from December 2014 through January 2015, of the 79% of employers who offer health improvement programs, larger companies, (those with more than 20,000 employees), are spending the most on these programs, where the per-employee average climbed to $878, up from $717 in 2014. The average for companies with between 5,000 and 20,000 workers rose to $661, up from $493 in 2014.


Companies continue to offer incentives to drive participation in wellness programs

As the design of wellness programs evolves, employers are increasingly using incentives, such as cash, gift cards, reduced health care premiums or a contribution to a health care account, to encourage employees to participate. At the same time, the use of disincentives among employers for not participating in these plans is decreasing.


The three most popular incentive-based health improvement programs for 2015 are biometric screenings (72% of employers plan to offer this program), health risk assessments (70%), and physical activity programs (54%). Among the top three, only 6% plan to use disincentives for not taking a health risk assessment, and 5% will use disincentives for not getting a biometric screening (down from 11% and 12%, respectively). No employers plan to use disincentives for not participating in physical activity programs, although 17% of employers continue to attach disincentives for not participating in smoking cessation programs.


Many employees aren’t taking full advantage of these programs and earning all of their incentives.  Fewer than half (47%) of employees earned their full incentive amount in 2014, while 26% earned a partial amount. Together, this translates into millions of dollars of unclaimed incentives.


“The next challenge for companies is to continue to find ways to increase participation in these programs and encourage employees to earn the full incentive amount available to them, which will contribute to their financial well-being as well as their physical health,” said Robert Kennedy, Health & Welfare practice leader with Fidelity’s Benefits Consulting business. “The expanding use of wellness-based incentives demonstrates that employers are committed to health improvement programs and understand how they can contribute to a healthy workforce and reinforce corporate culture.“


“It’s extremely encouraging to see an ever-increasing number of companies embrace corporate wellness programs as a way to promote a healthy workforce,” said Brian Marcotte, president and CEO, National Business Group on Health. “As employers continue to look at ways to improve employee health and increase productivity, we expect to see employers continue to expand and evolve their wellness offerings, and find new and innovative ways to encourage employee participation levels and measure the success of their programs.”


Source: National Business Group on Health press release, March 26, 2015, www.businessgrouphealth.org.


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