Outcome-Based Wellness Programs See Sharp Decline

April 06, 2016

A survey conducted by the National Business Group on Health showed that 24% of employers reported including outcome-based incentives in their wellness programs.  This is a sharp decline from the 44% that said they incentivized employees to lose weight, quit smoking, or achieve other health-oriented goals.  The sharp drop in outcome-based programs leads to the question of why employers are shifting away from the programs so abruptly.

Is it because they do not work?  Possibly, but under that logic, these same employers would likely cut other programs as well, such as annual screenings and health risk assessments.

Is it because there is push back from employees?  This is also possible.  Employers see that the lawsuits against Honeywell and others are a lose-lose situation.  Even if corporate wellness programs prevail against employee and government lawsuits, the bad press and upset workforce still takes a toll that doesn’t warrant the alleged benefits of the program.

Is it because employers genuinely care about their employees and outcome-based programs don’t really show that they do?  We hope that this is the reason.  A Global Wellness Institute report showed that “caring companies” boost worker health and productivity, not wellness programs.  Many caring companies have wellness programs, but they have them because they care, not because cost reduction is the primary goal.

We don’t really know the reason why so many employers are abandoning outcome-based programs, but we suspect it is a combination of the reasons above.  Either way, employers are better off genuinely caring about their employees and building their program around that.

Another interesting, but not surprising, tidbit from the survey is that employers are increasingly focusing on a broader concept of employee well-being that includes financial and emotional wellness as opposed to narrower efforts focused on getting workers to lose weight and lower their health costs.  This approach also likely contributed to the drop in outcome-based programs.

Topics: Corporate Wellness


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