Wellness programs are all well and good as long as employers understand why they are paying for them and what outcomes they can realistically expect these programs to produce. One thing they shouldn't expect: saving a lot of money on healthcare benefits for employees.

That's what the RAND Corp. concluded after reviewing wellness programs at eight companies. Seven of those that participated in the study (representing 600,000 employees) provided recent data to RAND, while the eighth, a Fortune 100 employer, provided a decade of data for RAND to sift through.

These employers attempted to manage healthcare costs and employee health in two ways: via wellness programs that focused on helping employees with lifestyle issues (smoking and obesity being the top two); and with disease management support for employees with existing chronic conditions.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.