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More consumers enrolling in wellness incentive programs

Employee Benefits
by Jacqueline Lee
More consumers enrolling in wellness incentive programs
More consumers enrolling in wellness incentive programs

A growing number of both small and large businesses which offer their employees health insurance are now also allowing them to participate in wellness programs. These programs are designed to reduce policy costs. These days, it seems far more people are being enticed to sign up for these initiatives, especially when given a significant financial incentive to do so.

When workers are given the choice between exercising more often and paying more for their health insurance, the vast majority start working out, according to new research from the University of Michigan Health System and Stanford University. The specific program studied used a pedometer program that in turn allowed enrollees to reduce their health insurance costs, and after one year close to 97 percent of people who signed up were either meeting or exceeding the program's goal of having people take 5,000 steps per day.

The reason for this trend toward healthier behavior is obvious: Those who didn't take advantage of them could see out-of-pocket costs for their families' healthcare rise by as much as $2,000 annually, the report said. Of the more than 6,500 people who participated in the pedometer program, less than 200 did not meet the goal of 450,000 steps per quarter. Interestingly, two-thirds of those polled after their participation said that they liked the program, while the remaining third thought the incentives were in some way unfair.

Researchers noted that while there were certainly ethical debates to be had about the ways in which these programs can work - particularly if workers are required to either participate or pay more than others - most people, even those who were initially opposed to enrollment, are satisfied with them for a reason, the report said. As a result, it's probable that as more companies begin to offer these incentive programs, a larger number of people nationwide will feel better about doing so, and in turn become healthier. This will then help to lower both their own health insurance costs and, potentially, those of their employers as well.

Small business owners and other executives may want to look into the ways in which these programs can help them to reduce their costs for insuring their employees. And because doing so can help to ensure a healthier, happier workforce overall, the incentives for doing so may be far more than monetary.

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