Health/Productivity Programs Growing In Popularity As Healthcare Costs
More domestic corporations
are providing health promotion and health management programs to
control rising healthcare costs and increase on-the-job productivity,
according to results of a new study by Hewitt Associates.
Ninety-three percent of U.S.
companies currently offer some type of health promotion program, up
from 89 percent in 1996, the study found. The study surveyed 945
companies, Hewitt representatives said.
Rising costs have triggered
the popularity of these programs, said Camille Haltom, Hewitt
"Because employers are under
increased cost pressures, there is a renewed interest and excitement
about health promotion and medical management programs that can provide
cost savings, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity," Haltom
"We expect that organizations
will not only continue to offer health promotion programs, but look for
ways to enhance and expand existing programs for employees," she
Disease management is
currently the area of greatest interest because it allows employees to
measure results in a shorter time frame compared to traditional
wellness programs, which can take as long as five years to measure
results, Haltom added.
At least 72 percent of the
survey respondents offer employees some kind of education or training,
which represents a 2 percentage point increase since 1996, according to
the study results.
Programs range from seminars
and workshops to counseling sessions for lifestyle habits that
contribute to chronic or acute health conditions, the report noted.
Forty-two percent of the
respondent companies continue to offer financial incentives and
disincentive programs, compared to 34 percent in 1996, the survey
The most common incentives
are gifts or monetary rewards for employees who participate in health
appraisals or screenings, according to the report.
Examples of disincentives
include charging employees who smoke higher medical or life insurance
premiums or giving employees a lower medical benefit payout for not
wearing a safety belt if they were involved in a car accident or if
they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the study found.
Management And Health Risk Appraisals
Seventy-six percent of the
respondents currently provide disease management programs for their
employees; 84 percent of the companies offer these programs through
self-insured and/or fully insured health plans, according to the
administer health risk appraisals in the form of questionnaires to
analyze an employee’s health history and promote early
detection of preventable health conditions, the study noted.
Forty-four percent of the
employers use the appraisals periodically, while 40 percent use them on
an annual basis, the study found.
The questionnaires are often
administered in conjunction with broader health management initiatives,
the results determined.
Online applications also have
made it easier to provide "serial evaluations" that can help
participants understand the impact of changing their health habits,
according to the survey results.
Three-quarters of the
respondents use health screenings, up from 68 percent in 1996, the
Most administer screenings to
detect high blood pressure or cholesterol through their health plans or
via onsite health fairs; mobile units also are used for mammography
exams or other screenings, according to the report.
Seventy-nine percent of the
respondents offer employees special programs for disease and medical
management, flu vaccinations, well baby and child care and prenatal
care; 63 percent offered these programs in 1996, according to the
About 81 percent of the
respondents offer additional activities or incentives designed to
increase an employee’s awareness of healthy behavior, the
study found. These initiatives include the following, the report noted:
* Smoke-free workplaces: 57
* Health fairs: 42 percent.
* Onsite or employer-owned
fitness facilities: 35 percent.
* Employer-sponsored sports
teams/tournaments: 30 percent.
* Discounts at local health
clubs: 23 percent.
"More companies are exploring
health promotion and disease management programs as part of their
healthcare strategy for next year," Haltom said.
The market is mature enough
for health plans and specialty providers to "address
employers’ needs and help contain costs," she added.
Address: Hewitt Associates,
100 Half Day Road, Lincolnshire, IL 60069; (847) 295-5000, www.hewitt.com.