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employer health incentives

The Health Incentive: Employers Encourage Workers to Take Action on Health

A new survey reveals that 83 percent of large and mid-size U.S. employers offer workers some form of incentive to encourage participation in health-related programs.

Increasingly, employers are using incentives in an attempt to urge workers to take steps to improve their health, according to new survey results from Aon Hewitt. Incentives may come in the form of a reward, such as payment for reducing body mass index, or by imposing a consequence if the employee does not make a required step, such as completing a health survey. Either way, U.S. employers are becoming more involved in encouraging the work force to take action on behalf of their health.

"Employers recognize the first step in getting people on a path to good health is providing employees and their families with the opportunity to become informed and educated about their health risks and the modifiable behaviors that cause those risks," said Jim Winkler, chief innovation officer for health and benefits at Aon Hewitt.

Aon Hewitt, a human-resource company, surveyed nearly 800 large and mid-size U.S. employers representing more than 7 million employees and found that 83 percent offer workers incentives for participating in health-related programs – 79 percent in the form of a reward, 5 percent in the form of consequences and 16 percent using a mix of both rewards and consequences. Employee health actions may include taking a health risk questionnaire (HRQ) or participating in biometric screenings.

Benefits for Employers

Aon Hewitt suggests that a growing number of employers are beginning to link incentives to sustainable actions and results, as opposed to having employees simply participate in a program. More than half of surveyed employers indicated that they saw improved health behaviors and/or an increase in employee engagement after offering incentives for health actions. In addition, almost half said they believe there was a positive impact on employee morale, satisfaction and/or attitudes, and 44 percent saw changes in health risks.

Survey highlights include:

  • 56 percent or employers require employees to actively participate in health programs, comply with medications or participate in activities like health coaching. 
  • 24 percent offer incentives for progress toward or attainment of acceptable ranges for biometric measures such as blood pressure, body mass index, blood sugar and cholesterol. More than two-thirds say they are considering this approach in the next 3-5 years.
  • 64 percent of employers offer monetary incentives of between $50 and $500
  • 18 percent offer monetary incentives of more than $500

Aon Hewitt's survey also indicates a potential shift in how many employers are thinking about designing their incentive programs in the future, with 58 percent planning to impose consequences on participants who do not take appropriate actions for improving their health, and 34 percent interested in tying incentives to program designs that require a focus on health 365 days a year.

"Today employers mainly rely on financial incentives to drive desired activities and behaviors, ranging from building awareness to achieving specific health outcomes," said Stephanie Pronk, health transformation leader for health and benefits at Aon Hewitt. "However, in the near future, these designs will be most successful and impactful when they are linked to an organizational culture that makes it easier for employees to make healthier personal decisions."

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