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Building Accountability into Your Health Care Programs

Thursday July 17, 2008

Whether to hold employees accountable for their results in a wellness program is still widely debated in the industry. Yet, solid evidence points to the value for both the company and the employee for voluntary wellness program participation but with rewards based on measurable results. (Those who are unable to improve their risks due to confirmed illness are, by regulation as well as a sense of fairness, given alternative ways to earn the reward.) Employees feel more respected when given the option to participate, but then to drive high participation, financial rewards must be substantial. Pioneering employers have now proven that such an approach yields better savings overall, in spite of the cost of the rewards, than simply rewarding for wellness program participation. There are inherent cost savings for employees, too, along with improved health and greater satisfaction with health benefits.

Best Ways to Reward Employee Participation in Wellness Programs

Effective wellness programs offer substantial financial incentives for the employees to reach measurable health risk status results the second year and each year thereafter, with baseline measurements taken the first year. For example, if an employee’s baseline blood pressure reading is above the medical-standard healthy range, the employee is rewarded for decreasing his/her blood pressure by 5% by the time it is measured the next year. Helping employees to understand where they currently are with regard to their health will help them to determine what actions and behaviors they need to take in order to achieve healthy targets.

Best Ways to Encourage Employees to be Accountable for their Own Wellness

Employers that create a culture of wellness throughout their organizations as well as offering strong financial incentives for wellness results and who also provide ongoing wellness education have the best cost returns on their wellness program investments. By teaching employees about healthy habits and a healthy lifestyle through targeted communication, education and by providing offline and online tools, they can learn to take their own steps toward leading a healthier lifestyle.

Other Benefits to Employers

Good evidence now also shows that improved employee health yields even more savings from productivity increases than from savings in medical claims. Productivity is increased when absenteeism is reduced and presenteeism of ill employees is improved.  Additional savings accrue from decreases in workers’ comp and disability claims. 

Focusing on wellness accountability as a part of the employee health benefits plan will improve the bottom line in terms of costs. It will also improve the organizational culture, employee satisfaction levels and overall productivity, all contributing to the goal of a healthy, sustainable organization. To learn more about how to WIN with your employee wellness plan, click here to receive a copy of the report, “Five Costly Mistakes Employers Make with Employee Health Benefits”.

Pam Armstrong is a Principal at Health Benefits Design Group. She is the author of the award-winning book Surviving Healthcare and the forthcoming book Accountable Wellness: Savvy Employers Offer Smart Health Benefits. Her personal journey led her to her current innovative approach after she realized that close elderly relatives were suffering due to highly preventable illnesses. Though it is too late for those who already have preventable but irreversible illnesses, Pam is committed to helping others avoid this type of needless misery – by guiding employers to incentivize employees to be healthier. For further information about designing and implementing smarter employee health benefits, see

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