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4 signs wellness programs are here to stay


Wellness programs aren't just a fad that employers and insurers are temporarily implementing; they're here to stay, according to a recent survey from Optum Resource Center.

Based on the responses of more than 500 human resource professionals, the survey found several signs that employer-based wellness programs are becoming a permanent fixture in the healthcare market. Here's a summary of some indications:

1. Continued commitment to employees' health

Employers continue to demonstrate that keeping their employees healthy is an important goal. About 50 percent of the survey respondents said wellness programs are somewhat important to their overall benefits, while 37 percent said they're very important. And a separate survey found that 78 percent of companies across the globe are strongly committed to creating a workplace culture focused on health, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

2. Increased investment in programs

What's more, companies of all sizes are increasing their investment in wellness programs despite the uncertain economy. More than 20 percent of employers in 2013 raised the amount of money they spent on these programs. The most popular incentives were contributing money to employees' health accounts, which 35 percent of employers offered as part of their wellness programs.

3. Multiple programs are available

Not only are companies incorporating wellness programs into their health plans, they're offering several choices. The survey found that employers of all sizes on average provide eight programs, while larger companies offer nine program options. Among the choices, 70 percent of the survey respondents offer employee assistance programs, 53 percent provide health and wellness websites, 52 percent have health assessments available, 49 percent provide wellness coaching and 48 percent offer health or fitness challenges.

4. Amount of incentives increase

Employers' wellness programs also include larger incentives to motivate employees to participate and reach certain health goals. That's likely because effective wellness programs offer real, tangible awards when goals are reached. The survey found that about 80 percent of companies now offer wellness incentives, and the average incentive amount rose by 55 percent from $108 in 2010 to $167 in 2013.

To learn more:
- here's the Optum survey (.pdf)

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