Should insurers create wellness programs?


Although a growing number of employers are investing in wellness programs to help lower their health-related costs, research doesn't always prove that these initiatives are effective. That leaves insurers wondering whether they should invest the time and resources necessary to develop and implement wellness programs.

A majority of companies (71 percent) believe that wellness programs are "very" or "somewhat" effective at lowering costs, reported The New York Times. And a survey of more than 500 human resource professionals found several signs that wellness programs are becoming a permanent fixture in the healthcare market, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

But research doesn't always support this widespread support for wellness programs. Several studies have determined that wellness programs don't save money or drastically improve participants' health. That's largely because the initiatives usually drive increased use of unnecessary care, causing patients to spend more money without improving their health, the Times noted.

One noteworthy study about PepsiCo's (NYSE: PEP) wellness program showed that it lowered costs--but only after it was in place for three years. All of the reduced spending was associated with the program's disease management element, which targeted participants with asthma, congestive heart failure, diabetes and other chronic conditions.

This research shows that if insurers do help implement wellness programs, they should target specific diseases and recognize that success is often only achieved in the long-term. What's more, insurers must work with employers to help educate workers about the existence of the programs and the benefits of participating.

To learn more:
- read The New York Times article

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