Poll: Don't link wellness programs to premiums

While the public has largely embraced wellness programs, many say it's not fair for employers to charge higher premiums to those who don't participate in the programs. Even more people oppose employers linking premiums to their ability to meet certain health goals, according to a poll released today from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The June poll involved more than 1,200 adults and focused on the appropriateness of offering wellness programs and linking premiums, program participation and outcomes.

Among the total public, 76 percent say it's appropriate for employers to offer wellness programs that promote healthy behaviors, while 21 percent consider these programs not appropriate. Only 22 percent of the public deem it acceptable for employees to pay higher premiums if they don't meet certain health goals, while 74 percent find this inappropriate, according to the poll.

For adults insured through their employer, 48 percent state their employer offers some type of wellness program. Out of that 48 percent, six in 10 say they participate. The poll also found women are more likely to participate in wellness programs than men--73 percent versus 54 percent, respectively.

Yet a final rule issued last year by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services requires insurers to decrease premiums by up to 30 percent for members participating in wellness programs offered through their employer-sponsored health insurance, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

What's more, not all wellness programs are the same. In some programs, workers must join a particular program, like an exercise class, while other programs focus on monitoring employees' blood sugar or cholesterol levels, reports the Washington Post. It remains unclear whether these programs actually improve an employee's' health or lower costs for employers and insurers.

For more:
- here's the KFF poll
- read the Washington Post article