Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Paying employees to lose weight

Employee Benefit News

By Kathleen Koster

July 28, 2009

Employers are upping the ante to their wellness programs as the average cash incentive has increased from $204 in 2008 to $329 in 2009, finds a recent study on incentives in corporate wellness programs.

The study, an online survey, involved 372 small, medium and large U.S. companies employing 1.8 million workers.

The value of incentives range from $1 per pound for weight loss to annual premium reductions, the most commonly used incentive, valued at more than $1,500. …

Smaller companies may have limited resources compared to their larger counterparts, but that doesn’t mean they’re skimping on health incentives. …[Some] organizations with as few as 210 employees are offering incentives valued at $1,450 per year, well above average, the study found.

Companies of all sizes are further including spouses and dependents into the fitness fold, with more than half of the 372 companies interviewed offering wellness or disease management benefits to spouses and dependents.

In addition, two out of three companies offer a health risk assessment to employees, and nearly three out of four of those have set up incentives, which range up to $300 annually, with approximately 10% to 15% exceeding $300.

“… Employers are taking control of health care costs by creating smart, effective new strategies to keep employees healthy, and to keep employees at work,” says Katherine H. Capps, president of Health2 Resources, a Virginia-based health communication firm that sponsored the study with the National Association of Manufacturers.

Moreover, employers are measuring the results from these programs with greater consistency and are finding promising results. In 2007, only 14% of employers measured the ROI of these programs, but two years later 73% are monitoring their results.

Of those measuring, 83% say the programs return better than 1:1 on their investment. …

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