Improving Value

Wellness Incentives

Wellness programs aim to promote healthy behaviors like regular physical activity, eating healthier and smoking cessation by providing consumers with resources that support those behaviors. Typical aspects of wellness programs include: behavior modification programs, such as tobacco cessation, weight management, and exercise; are health-risk assessments and screenings (for high blood pressure and cholesterol); health education classes and changes in the work environment or provision of special benefits to encourage exercise and healthy food choices, such as subsidized health club memberships.

There is some evidence that suggests that comprehensive wellness programs may pay off for employers by reducing their expenditures for employees' healthcare. In 2014, the ACA expanded employers' ability to reward employees who meet health status goals by participating in wellness programs—and required employees who didn’t meet these goals to pay more for their employer-sponsored health coverage. Some consumer advocates argue that this ability to differentiate in health coverage costs among employees is unfair and will amount to employers' policing workers' health.

As the Hub’s Research Brief shows, a growing body of research indicates that wellness programs do not produce meaningful healthcare savings as a result of employee health gains.