When It Comes To Lowering Healthcare Costs Do Workplace Wellness Programs Over-Promise And Under-Deliver?
Don’t get me wrong, I completely support the notion of promoting positive health behaviors and healthier lifestyles. Encouraging such things as regular exercise, good and balanced nutrition, the proper amounts of sleep, and all the things associated with taking better care of ourselves is all good. No question about that.
It’s just that for the most part you could color me the doubting Thomas when it came to believing the narrative that wellness programs definitively lead to lower insurance premiums and other healthcare-related cost savings.
And, it seems that most often that’s how wellness programs have been sold to employers. “Implement a wellness program and you will lower your company’s insurance premiums and other employee health-related costs” has commonly comprised a major part of the wellness sales pitch made to employers.
And many employers, especially large employers, have been buying this cost savings aspect of it. (80% of large employers in the U.S. offer wellness programs*).
I’ve long wondered if these corporate wellness programs provided any direct return on an employer’s investment (Workplace wellness is an $8 billion industry*). We sure haven’t witnessed it either in the way of lower insurance premiums or a decrease in the consumption of medical services and medical claims.
Harvard provides an answer via a major study on the Health and Economic Outcomes of Workplace Wellness Programs.
Results of the Harvard study were recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). In a nutshell the Harvard study concluded that while there were significantly greater rates of some positive health behaviors among participating employees, there were no significant effects on health care spending.
In other words, when it comes to wellness programs and savings, the Harvard study verdict is in. Under-deliver.
For more on the Harvard study click here.