The big buzz in employer health care has been about wellness. All over the nation, companies have been rolling out programs to help their employees get healthier, and some have been more proactive than others.
Organizations who offer these options want to maintain a certain level of participation that helps to drive down the cost of health care by offering preventive solutions to obtain those goals. After all, what business owner or CEO doesn’t want to have a healthier, and happier, work force? Employees who participate in wellness programs have a tendency to be healthier, and they also perform better on the job. Better performance leads to better results, and that typically can be translated to increases in productivity, promotion and income.
Other surveys confirm this trend: Mercer, a national benefits consulting firm, found 24 percent of the largest companies -- those with 20,000 or more employees -- will charge higher health insurance premiums for smokers. And 12 percent of firms with more than 500 employees are doing the same, according to the 2011 survey.
How big does a penalty or incentive have to be to influence employee behavior? Would employees be more likely to lose weight if they got a guaranteed payment -- say, a $150 gas card -- or if they were entered into a lottery to win a much larger sum? Will a simple written reminder get more people to sign up for a flu shot? Finding out what works is paramount, especially as the federal government gives employers more latitude to tinker with premiums for those who quit smoking, lose weight or otherwise try to improve their health.