Health Incentive News

By December 15, 2009Commentary

With the proliferation of wellness and other programs designed to improve health and lower health spending, a key question has been how to maximize the likelihood that employees will take the actions which might lead to those better outcomes.  Several organizations have released reports informing us on that topic.

The National Business Coalition on Health has been at the forefront of enlightened employer-based health plan design and has issued a new report on health plans’ capabilities to offer and support value based designs.  (NBCH Report) These designs include incentives to encourage employees to make good health and health care choices; programs to support health behaviors; having suitable data gathering and analysis tools and offering tiered provider networks based on quality and cost.  The report finds that most national and many regional health plans have these abilities.

IncentOne, a large provider of incentive programs, has begun a series called “The Science of Health Incentives”.  The first report in that series discusses how incentive amounts affect participation in HRA completion and wellness program participation.    (IncentOne Report) The researchers looked at thousands of pieces of research or data sets to ascertain what level of incentive would drive certain levels of participation.  For wellness programs, every $100 increase in incentive value increases participation by 7% above baseline; to get 60% of people to participate costs about $356.  For HRA completion, the baseline participation is higher and to obtain 60% participation costs about $163.

Finally, Viverae, a wellness services provider, put out a white paper on designing incentive programs to increase participation by employees.  The paper examined four types of incentives, premium reductions, merchandise, cash and gift/debit cards.  The paper analyzes potential benefits and disadvantages of each.  While recommendations may differ based on the specific employer’s situation, Viverae recommends a $500-800 premium credit as the primary incentive.     (Viverae Paper) (Registration Required)

Employees and others tend to know that wellness programs would help them, but often need motivation to actually become engaged.  Creating that engagement is becoming more scientific, based on ongoing research such as that conducted by these groups.

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