Worksite wellness programs lower healthcare costs

Healthcare costs rose at a 15 percent slower rate among participants in a worksite wellness program, which translates to $332 in savings per participant, according to a study sponsored by Highmark and published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

To evaluate the impact of worksite wellness programs on healthcare costs and utilization over time, the study evaluated 10,000 wellness program participants at 47 Highmark employer groups. At a minimum, the employer groups offered web-based wellness programs to their employees consistently for three or more years, according to a Highmark statement.

The study also revealed that employees participating in the programs were more likely to seek out preventive care, such as mammograms and cancer screenings, reports the Pittsburgh Business Times. More specifically, it concluded that small interventions like web-based wellness programs encourage preventive service utilization, notes Fox Business.

"Preventive care costs more in the short term because participants were utilizing more resources than the population who did not see a doctor for mammograms and colorectal and other screenings," Jennifer Grana, Highmark's director of health promotion, told Fox Business. However, though the nonparticipants avoided the front-end costs of going to the doctor, their lack of prevention "represents hidden risk."

Highmark hopes to encourage worksite wellness programs by working with employers who ensure preventive care for their employees at no expense by eliminating deductibles or copays, thus removing barriers.

To learn more:
- see the Pittsburgh Business Times story
- read the Fox Business article
- see the Highmark press release

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