you have employer-provided health insurance, you donít
have to worry about meeting the March 31 deadline to
sign up for coverage through the state-based health care
exchanges. But like any consumer today, you may be
wondering how to lower your health care costs.
way: Take advantage of the growing number of health and
wellness programs being offered by employers ó often
with financial rewards attached.
and wellness programs can take many forms, from
weight-loss initiatives to on-site flu shots. And in
2014, nearly three-fourths of employers will offer
workers a financial bonus for participating in these
programs, according to a study released this year by
Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on
Health. Thatís up from 57 percent five years ago.
size of the rewards also is growing. On average,
corporations plan to dole out $594 per employee for
wellness incentives this year, up from $260 in 2009.
a strong belief that these programs help drive healthier
behaviors," said Robert Kennedy, health and welfare
practice leader for Fidelity Benefits Consulting. But,
he added, "The financial incentives are what grab
peopleís attention and make them take action."
a survey released last month by Aon Hewitt, a global
human resources consulting firm, consumers named
financial rewards as one of the most appealing features
of wellness programs, more so than other features, such
as convenience and access to personal advice.
you havenít already investigated the type of rewards
your employer offers, itís worth doing so.
employers will discount your monthly health insurance
premium when you participate in a wellness program. Gift
cards and cash also are common rewards. Or an employer
may put money in a flexible spending or health savings
account, which are tax-advantaged savings accounts for
do you earn those financial bonuses?
the past, simply doing a health risk assessment
(essentially, a questionnaire about your health and
fitness level) was enough to earn you a payout. Now,
some employers are demanding more. Rewards may be tied
to outcomes or the completion of more than one healthy
activity during the year.
some companies will penalize you for bad behavior. If
youíre a smoker, for example, and donít participate
in a smoking cessation program, you may have to pay
higher insurance premiums than nonsmoking colleagues.
employers want their workforce to be healthier,"
said Ray Baumruk, employee research leader for Aon
that focus is expected to continue.
its 2013 survey of employer health benefits, the Kaiser
Family Foundation, a nonprofit health policy group,
found that 35 percent of employers believe health and
wellness programs are an effective strategy for
controlling health care costs. Only 20 percent said the
same about consumer-driven health plans, and 17 percent
about making workers cover a higher percentage of their
a result, Baumruk believes even more companies will
offer wellness programs in coming years. And the size of
some of these incentives will likely rise, "at
least in the short term," he said.
benefits also could be provided.
its survey, Aon Hewitt found that workers younger than
30 would like to receive guidelines for healthy living,
as well as a way to quickly compare health care costs.
Today, only 10 percent of consumers say they have access
to a cost-comparison tool, according to Aon.