wellness programs not enough for employers

North Carolina employers increasingly want their workers to prove they are actually getting healthier to receive a health insurance financial benefit, not just participating in a wellness program to check a box.

According to the latest N.C. Healthcare Benefits and Cost survey, published by consultants Hill, Chesson & Woody, nearly 40 percent of North Carolina employers have implemented a wellness program, and 27 percent of employers are incentivizing their employees financially for participating in those programs.

Wellness programs have been a growing trend for years, so an increase there wasn’t totally surprising. However, the survey also found that 6 percent of employers are going beyond participation, and are incentivizing employees for achieving certain health outcomes in their wellness programs.

So, for example, if a wellness program includes a smoking cessation course, the employee must actually cut back on smoking. If the wellness program includes help with lowering cholesterol, the employee’s cholesterol levels must actually come down.

“We are slowly moving from a participation based health maintenance strategy to an outcomes based health maintenance strategy,” says Skip Woody, a partner with HCW.

Other trends continued as they have for some years, specifically a shift toward consumer-driven plans, or plans with higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for the employee. That’s not always a bad thing. Higher costs force consumers to shop more for deals, which can ultimately bring overall costs down as providers are forced to compete in a more traditional sense.

“Employees need to have more skin in the game,” says Woody. “And they need to become better consumers of health care. They need to search for value.”


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