Survey: Workers Motivated by Wellness Program Incentives

April 3, 2008
A new survey from the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America revealed that 68 percent of U.S. workers believe that cash, gifts, extra vacation days and other incentives can help them make healthier long-term lifestyle choices, such as eating properly, exercising and quitting smoking.

The survey, which was conducted via telephone in October 2007, revealed that two-thirds of all respondents believe wellness programs effectively promote good health, whether or not they ever participated in such programs. In fact, only 35 percent of respondents reportedly had access to workplace wellness programs, and of that number, about half are currently enrolled.

Of the survey respondents who are currently enrolled or have participated in a wellness program in the past 3 years, 85 percent say that these programs are very effective in promoting good health.

“Workplace-based wellness programs are growing in popularity with employers, largely to promote prevention and early intervention as a means to help control the cost of health care," said Tim Bireley, vice president, Group Medical, Guardian. "With only a third of employees reporting that wellness programs are available at their jobs, employers and the benefits industry have to do a better job of increasing awareness about these programs.”

Alternative Medicine Also Favored

College graduates and the wealthy were most likely to have participated in a wellness program in the past 3 years. Those with at least some college education are more likely to favor health insurance covering complementary alternative medicine techniques, the survey revealed.

Some of the alternative techniques or practices that employees believe should be covered by insurance include:

  • Chiropractic – 72 percent
  • Nutritional counseling – 71 percent
  • Acupuncture – 57 percent
  • Herbalism/Botanical Medicine – 49 percent
  • Homeopathy – 45 percent
  • Reflexology – 41 percent
  • Personal Training – 41 percent
  • Osteopathy – 40 percent
  • Yoga – 39 percent
  • Pilates – 31 percent

“Employees often pay for these procedures out-of-pocket and value insurance plans that offer either full coverage, or discounts on procedures that can complement traditional medical care," said Susan O'Connor, RN, assistant vice president, Group Medical at Guardian. "Giving employees access to complementary alternative medicine services as part of a wellness plan is about providing them with more individual choice.”

Reducing Company Costs

A separate 2007 Guardian survey showed that larger employers are more likely to embrace wellness programs. Statistics revealed that 82 percent of small employers, 90 percent of mid-size employers and 99 percent of large employers see value in implementing wellness programs. Yet only 57 percent of the small businesses that value wellness programs have implemented some type of plan.

Bireley noted that small and mid-size business owners should learn more about the benefits of wellness initiatives because if more company employees participate in wellness programs, medical care costs would drop nationwide.

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