Coming Soon To A Workplace Near You: 'Wellness Or Else'

 By Sharon Begley at Yahoo Health

By Sharon Begley at Yahoo Health

Beginning in 2014, the law known as Obamacare raised the financial incentives that employers are allowed to offer workers for participating in workplace wellness programs and achieving results. The incentives, which big business lobbied for, can be either rewards or penalties - up to 30 percent of health insurance premiums, deductibles, and other costs, and even more if the programs target smoking.

For some companies, however, just signing up for a wellness program isn’t enough. They’re linking financial incentives to specific goals such as losing weight, reducing cholesterol, or keeping blood glucose under control. The number of businesses imposing such outcomes-based wellness plans is expected to double this year to 46 percent, the survey found.

"Wellness-or-else is the trend," said workplace consultant Jon Robison of Salveo Partners.

"Employers are carrying a major burden of healthcare in this country and are trying to do the right thing," said Stephanie Pronk, a vice president at benefits consultant Aon Hewitt. "They need to improve employees’ health so they can lead productive lives at home and at work, but also to control their healthcare costs."

BALANCING THE WELLNESS BOOKS

About 95 percent of large U.S. employers offer workplace wellness programs. The programs cost around $100 to $300 per worker per year, but generally save far less than that in medical costs. A 2013 analysis by the RAND think tank commissioned by Congress found that annual healthcare spending for program participants was $25 to $40 lower than for non-participants over five years.

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