The costs of the health care reform law make it more important than ever that employers keep their workers healthy and motivated to adopt healthy lifestyles, a vast majority of employers said in a recent survey. Not only did 78 percent of employers agree or somewhat agree with that statement, but most also said they are likely or very likely to create or expand corporate wellness programs as a result of an incentive provision in the new law.
Effective January 1, 2014, employers will be able to use employee wellness program rewards or penalties of up to 30 percent of the cost of individual health coverage, up from the current limit of 20 percent.
The survey conducted by the Chicago-based Midwest Business Group on Health in partnership with Business Insurance, found that 60 percent of employers are likely or very likely to create or expand their wellness programs as a result of the wellness provision, while 33 percent said they are unlikely or not very likely to do so, and 7 percent did not answer.
The survey of 1,300 employers, including MBGH members and the National Business Coalition on Health, gauged their intentions and perspectives concerning the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The survey also found that when it comes to communicating information to employees, 52 percent are educating employees about how the law affects their benefits; 36 percent are describing what they, as the employer, plan to do; and 35 percent are explaining to employees what’s contained in the new law.
Conversely, 38 percent of the employers surveyed said they haven’t decided what to communicate to employees and 6 percent said they don’t plan to inform employees about the law.
Source: Business Insurance, Sally Roberts
For each of the last 7 years, MetLife has conducted a huge employee benefits trends study, and data from 2008, including responses from over 1,500 benefits decision makers and 1,300 employees, have just been released. The global company, which provides insurance, employee benefits, and financial services, stressed wellness programs in its report on the study results.
Financial and physical health intertwined. Some of the statistics offered are surprising and disturbing:
- 59% of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor say they live paycheck to paycheck, compared to 34% of people in very good or excellent health.
- 70% of people who rate their health as fair or poor are very concerned about making ends meet, compared to 52% of people whose health is very good or excellent.
- 76% of people who see their health as fair or poor are very concerned about affording health care in retirement, compared to 57% of those in very good or excellent health.
Interestingly, however, the employees who assess their health as fair or poor have healthcare coverage through their employers at nearly the same rate as those who say their health is very good or excellent. So the connection between poor health and tight finances is in no way limited to people without healthcare insurance.
How well are wellness programs? Given that 94% of surveyed employers agree that wellness programs can be at least somewhat effective in reducing medical costs, MetLife researchers expressed some disappointment that the number of employers offering such programs is growing so slowly. Only one-third (33%) of respondents offered wellness programs in late 2008, up from about one-fourth (27%) in late 2005. And, even among organizations employing more than 500 people, the portion offering such programs is only 57%, up from 46% in 2005.
The MetLife study showed that nearly half of employees participate in programs offered by their employers. But here’s the payoff: They don’t do so primarily to earn incentives or avoid penalties but simply to maintain good health. The older they are, the more likely they value the health benefits, while incentives are more important to the youngest workers.
Source: HR.BLR.com (12/10/2009)