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Workplace wellness programs

Workplace wellness programs have virtually no beneficial impact on employee health

Thursday, June 06, 2013 by: Lance Johnson
Tags: workplace wellness programs, Affordable Care Act, employee health

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(NaturalNews) A "workplace wellness program" sounds like a great idea, but new studies are proving otherwise. In matters of reducing healthcare costs and having long term impact on employee health, these programs are failing, according to new data collected from the RAND corp.

In 2014, when healthcare reform takes full effect, employers will be able to reward employees who participate in wellness programs through federal subsidies equal to 30 percent of insurance premium costs. These benefits all hinge on the success rate of the wellness programs themselves, which are now coming under heavy scrutiny.

The report found virtually no medical cost savings

Researchers from the RAND Corp released a mandatory analysis to the US Department of Health and Human Services last fall and the details are now emerging.

Their data included information from 600 businesses that employ at least 50 employees, analyzing medical documents from a health and wellness trade association called Care Continuum Alliance.

What they found was that the programs had virtually no beneficial impact on employee health and did little to offset condition like heart disease, cancer, and stroke.

Medical savings per employee only amounted to $2.38 a month! By the fifth year, workplace wellness participants were only saving $3.46 a month!

"Traditional workplace wellness barely scratches the surface," said Keith Lemer, president of WellNet, which provides programs to restaurants, "Done right, (the program) requires the integration of clinical data, wellness, health coaching, and work flow." The initiatives succeed if they have "senior level support and a high-degree of employee engagement in healthy behaviors," he said.

The programs cost more than what they save, even in the long run

A $6 billion industry in the United States, workplace wellness programs include over 500 vendors. According to the RAND report, half of employers with 50 or more employees now use a workplace wellness program, and these companies on average, spend at least $521 per employee per year on program incentives.

This means that employers spend on average $43 a month per employee, but employees only end up saving $2.38 a month on medical expenses!

According to a survey by Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health released in February 2013: Over the past three years, the cost of program incentives have actually doubled, from $260 to the current $521 yearly average, further testifying workplace wellness program inefficiency.

Affordable Care Act making matters worse

Since wellness programs are not reducing healthcare spending, employers subsidizing employees under the Affordable Care Act will be faced with absorbing the costs or raising premiums on all employees' health insurance premiums. Current estimates project premium increases of $1,620 per employee each year in the coming year.

Rand Corp's report was expected to release these findings in 2013, but according to sources close to the report, federal agencies have retracted the findings, not ready to release the report to the public, afraid it will hurt public opinion on Obamacare.

It will come down to motivation, not one-size-fits-all mandates

"The strongest predictor of whether someone will lose weight or stop smoking is how motivated they are," said Al Lewis, founder and president of the Disease Management Purchasing Consortium International, which helps self-insured employers and state programs reduce healthcare costs. "Since [workplace wellness programs] are usually voluntary, the most motivated employees sign up. That makes it impossible to credit the programs with success in smoking cessation or weight loss rather than the employees' motivation."

By handing out federal subsidy incentives, the Affordable Care Act tries to motivate employees to achieve better health, but with the workplace wellness programs having no beneficial impact, health insurance and medical costs will continue to climb, having the opposite effect desired.

This is because true motivation cannot be bribed onto people through a one-size-fits-all approach. In the long run, government entitlements have the opposite effect on motivation and self discipline. Workplace wellness programs are not cutting costs because participants continue to pursue a medical establishment mindset. The mindset has to change.

What people need is purity. They need something real to be motivated toward and that should include a program rooted in the implementation of positive lifestyle changes, self discipline, nutrition utilization, and the teaching of detoxification methods.

Giving incentives for short term, passionless fad programs doesn't work. A one-size-fits-all fails for a diverse work force. A program designated toward each individual and their motivation to achieve will have the most lasting impact.

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