With wellness programs, companies search for the keys to worker motivation

Noting the trend toward tying employees' health insurance premiums to their willingness to participate in a wellness program, a Columbus CEO article points to keys to creating successful programs.

"We're moving from an era of entitlement to an era of accountability," the article quotes Rich Siegenthaler II, president and CEO of Integrated Wellness Solutions, who links the trend to car insurance, where bad drivers pay more.

Seventy-five percent of healthcare spending is related to behavior and 60 percent can be controlled, he says.

Companies can see lower increases in their health insurance costs if they can demonstrate that their wellness plan encouraged workers to get physicals and embrace healthier lifestyles.

Using baseline data, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index is critical he says. Yet as FierceHealthPayer's Dina Overland pointed out, many companies don't follow up after that data is collected, missing an opportunity to truly address medical issues.

Paul Granello, an associate professor in counselor education at Ohio State University, advocates involving mental health counselors to help motivate people to change their habits, notes Columbus CEO

Siegenthaler urges companies to provide a "personal" program in which employees can engage with a health coach as much as they want.

Companies have tried various approaches to encourage employee wellness, some less successful than others. Research from the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that offering cash--$20 to complete initial questions and another $40 for completing learning modules--wasn't incentive enough to get people involved in an online self-management/wellness program.

When offering the carrot doesn't work, however, in other cases, employees face the stick. Maryland requires wellness programs as part of the state's health insurance coverage and will penalize those who fail to undergo certain screenings by as much as $450 per person by 2017.

To learn more:
- read the article