Blood, Sweat And Workplace Wellness: Where To Draw The Line On Incentives

By Julie Appleby
Kaiser Health News

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) According to a 2017 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, eighty-five percent of large employers offering health insurance included a wellness program designed to help people stop smoking, lose weight or take other healthful actions.

Kaiser Health News

Workplace wellness programs that offer employees a financial carrot for undergoing health screenings, sticking to exercise regimens or improving their cholesterol levels have long been controversial.

Next year, they may become even more contentious. Two recent court rulings have cast uncertainty over what is the appropriate limit for financial incentives that employers can offer workers to participate in programs that require clinical testing or disclosure of personal health data. The dollar amount is subject to debate because it raises questions about when the incentives become so high that employees feel they don’t have a choice about participating.

As a result, workers may find programs offer smaller incentives, consultants say. Also, programs might give employees options for qualifying for those incentives, a choice, for instance, between undergoing a medical exam or completing online health education modules.

About 4 in 10 employers participating in an informal survey by benefits firm Mercer said “they really were not sure what they would do,” said Steven Noeldner, its senior consultant in total health management specialty practice. “Some are modifying … others are taking a wait-and-see-attitude.”

Eighty-five percent of large employers offering health insurance included a wellness program designed to help people stop smoking, lose weight or take other healthful actions, according to a 2017 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the foundation.)

Just over half of those included some type of medical screening. Rewards or incentives to participate vary. The most common are gift cards, fitness trackers or other merchandise, or discounts on what workers pay toward their health insurance coverage.

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