Survey Finds Large Employers Value Wellness Programs

More than half (57 percent) of larger employers (those with 500 or more employees) are providing employees with a wellness program up from 49 percent in 2006, according to MetLife.

While the number of smaller employers (those with less than 500 employees) that offer a wellness program has remained steady the last two years at 16 percent, MetLife’s Sixth Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study found that nine out of 10 (94 percent) companies, both large and small, that offer a wellness program believe they are effective for reducing medical costs. These wellness programs include different items such as smoking cessation, weight management, an exercise regimen or cancer screening. Only 9 percent of employers impose financial penalties on employees who do not meet wellness guidelines -- a percentage that has remained steady for two years.

The study’s results also show that about four out of five employers that have wellness programs are providing incentives to encourage employee participation. Among employers that use incentives, the following motivational devices are being used:

  • 40 percent of employers provide gyms/fitness center discounts.
  • 38 percent of employers provide gifts and prizes.
  • 27 percent of employers offer a reduction in employee contributions to medical plans.
  • 17 percent of employers waive medical plan deductibles.
  • 17 percent of employers offer additional time off.
  • 14 percent of employers offer employees a credit towards their benefits purchases.
  • 2 percent of employers offer cash/bonuses.

"Health insurance is not health assurance. While health insurance can offer employees important financial protection for acute medical events, most health insurance is not designed to help employees and their employers take a preventive approach to serious conditions that can often be avoided with healthy lifestyle decisions. Helping employees see the value of wellness programs can lead to improved participation, which could affect not only their own current and future finances and productivity but that of their employers," said Ronald Leopold, M.D. and vice president, MetLife Institutional Business.

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