Leavitt Benefits is starting a new feature on HealthReformUpdates.com (aka https://news.leavitt.com/health-care-reform). We will periodically publish links to outside articles and reports on various Health Care Reform and Benefits topics. This first edition of “Recent Articles” is on WELLNESS.
Monetary Incentives Encourage Corporate Wellness Participation
“One common focus of incentives is employee participation in a health risk assessment…. [One study] found that health risk questionnaires coupled with follow-up interventions — such as support activities or health promotion programs — raised the likelihood that the programs would be beneficial. Convincing employees to provide information for the assessment can be challenging, so the incentive is needed.” (U.S. Chamber of Commerce)
Reward-Based Incentives for Smoking Cessation: How a Carrot Became a Stick
“In a randomized controlled trial involving 878 employees, financial incentives worth a total of $750 increased long-term smoking cessation rates from 5.0% to 14.7% at the end of 9 to 12 months…. Examination of the financial returns from implementing a similar program was done by the employer where this trial was performed … The company’s conclusion was that there was a 5-year payback period, consistent with the firm’s time frame for other investments. However, simply applying the reward-based incentive program as designed ran into a series of unanticipated road blocks…. [T]he $750 reward eventually became implemented as a $625 surcharge.” (JAMA)
Three Surprising Hazards of Worksite Wellness Programs
This article reviews a new book by Al Lewis and Vik Khanna called “Surviving Workplace Wellness…with Your Dignity, Finances, and (Major) Organs Intact.” The book is so laugh-out-loud funny you may wonder if it’s really serious, but actually it’s a sobering exposé of hazards in the worksite wellness trend in American business. This book makes a compelling case that poorly designed wellness programs don’t help at all. In fact, they 1) dismay and alienate employees, 2) fail to reduce health costs, and 3) harm employee health. (Leah Binder in Forbes)
The Cure for the Common Corporate Wellness Program
“[E]ven though wellness is allegedly supposed to empower employees … it has become an employee control tool, heavy on financial forfeitures … while light on both scientific support and actual health improvement or cost containment…. [W]ellness has become a marketing tool for health plans… [T]he typical program is now moving away from science towards a round-up-twice-the-usual-number-of-suspects emphasis on participation rather than health improvement… [T]his participation emphasis extends to a requirement of annual checkups in most programs, even though annual checkups for adults without chronic disease can do more harm than good.” (Al Lewis and Vik Khanna in Harvard Business Review Blog Network)
Wellness Programs: Are Employers Interfering in Employees’ Lives?
“What health promotion professionals do advocate is providing theory-based programs designed to make workers more aware of health issues through awareness and education initiatives. These programs help workers develop skills needed to maintain good health … In contrast, programs that coerce, intimidate, threaten, cajole, bribe, or otherwise undermine individual choices related to health improvement are viewed by workers as self-serving and not in the employees’ self-interest. Poorly designed programs do not work. In fact, they often backfire because employees become resentful of management’s underhanded methods of compelling individuals to do what they would not otherwise do on their own accord.” (Ron Goetzel in Health Affairs Blog)