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Employer Use of Wellness Programs

By November 23, 2016Commentary

Benefit consultant and broker United Benefit Advisors issues results from a survey of employers on their wellness programs.   (UBA Report)  According to the survey, 18.4% of companies offer comprehensive wellness programs, about the same as in 2015.  60% of large firms with 1000 employees or more do so, as do 51% of those with 500 to 1000 workers and 35.6% of those with 200 to 500 employees.  Small firms, those with 25 or fewer workers, actually declined from a 9.3% rate three years ago to 6.1% in 2016.  Geographically, companies in the North Central and Northeast are most likely to offer wellness programs and those in the Central U.S. are the least likely to do so.  Government, education and utilities have the highest use of wellness offerings, while construction, agriculture, mining and transportation firms are the least likely to provide these programs to employees.  Larger employers tend to contract with independent wellness companies to provide the benefit, while smaller employers use ones offered by their insurance plan carrier or administrator.  Two-thirds of employers build incentives for participation into the program, but many have concerns about potential regulatory restrictions stemming from disability or privacy concerns.  Incentives generally take the form of premium reductions or contributions to health spending accounts; but health club dues and gift cards are also popular incentives.  The most common components of wellness programs are health risk assessments, physical exams and diagnostic screenings, incentives, coaching and education.  The trend toward use of biometric screenings, which can more effectively identify unmet health needs, is also reflected in the results of this survey.

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