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Post the PPACA reforms there has been an ever-growing interest among the US employers for introducing wellness programs at the workplace. Healthier employees require lesser medical assistance vis-à-vis unhealthy employees, a factor that helps employers cap their healthcare costs to manageable limits.

The wellness program trend is growing in popularity among the US corporates and insurers are rushing to boost their wellness plan enrollments. To capitalize on the rising trend insurers are introducing new wellness plan offerings and adopting innovative measures such as social media and virtual/real games. Last year, HealthAmerica of Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of Coventry Health Care, Inc., partnered with CaféWell, a social media company, to expand its social media networking in the healthcare arena.

PPACA had introduced a number of radical measures to support healthier habits among the US workforce.

1) Employee wellness program participation incentive is scheduled to be raised to 30% from the present figure of 20%, beginning 2014 (and even 50% under special cases).

2) $200 million federal grant money has been allocated to be dispensed over 5 years (2011-2015) to small businesses for introducing wellness programs.

Willis North America recently published its findings from a 2011 Health and Productivity survey, which attempts to ascertain the number of U.S. employers, currently offering wellness programs to their employees. Worksite wellness programs have traditionally proven effective in reducing employee healthcare costs.

The table below attempts to compare and analyze the data from the Willis Health and Productivity Survey reports published in 2010 and 2011. There has been a noticeable jump in the number of employers currently offering worksite wellness programs, vis-e-vis those offering wellness programs in 2010 – a statistic that may be attributed to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

Prevalence of Wellness programs

Wellness programs

2010

Number of respondents : 1949

2011

Number of respondents : 1598

Percentage of respondents with some sort of wellness program

43%

60%

Basic* wellness program

57%

44%

Intermediate** wellness program

33%

40%

Comprehensive*** wellness program

10%

17%

No current program

46%

33%

 

Engaging and retaining employee participation in the wellness programs remains one of the most obvious and constant challenges for most employers. While many employers mandate wellness program membership as a pre-requisite for receiving health insurance coverage, others offer incentives in the form of premium discounts, low co-insurance and deductible options to drive at improved employee participation and engagement.

Insurers are revisiting and redesigning their wellness programs and offerings to map them well with the evolving expectations and requirements of employees. Employers also are investing more resources and time into their health insurance packages to increase positive health outcomes and drive down costs.

*Basic wellness program offers basic voluntary activities such as healthy lifestyle promoting health fairs, team challenges, lunch-and-learns etc.

**Intermediate programs include most facilities offered under the basic program and some more programs such as health assessment surveys, health coaching, on-site biometric screenings etc.

***Comprehensive wellness packages provide most benefits offered under an intermediate program and some additional facilities such as yearly tracking of wellness data, extensible spouse wellness coverage etc.

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