Public wary of outcomes-based wellness plansNews added by Benefits Pro on July 2, 2014

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Joined: September 07, 2011

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By Dan Cook

Workers really don’t like wellness plans that force them to choose between participating and attempting to meet goals, or paying higher premiums. If employers continue to go down that road, they could risk losing employee support for the programs.

This was among the trends spotted by a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of 1,200 adults for its latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, out Wednesday.

“As many employers begin to expand their wellness program offerings under new guidelines set forth by the Affordable Care Act, the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that while the public is amenable to the idea of wellness programs in general, they do not think it’s appropriate for employers to charge workers higher health insurance premiums if they don’t participate in these programs,” Kaiser said in a foreword to the study.

“Further, an even larger share of the public is opposed to the idea of employers tying workers’ health insurance premiums to their ability to meet certain health goals. About half of working-age people with employer-provided health insurance say their employer offers some type of wellness program, and most of those who are offered (three in ten of all those with employer coverage) say they participate.”

Here’s the breakdown of the data:
  • 80 percent said they supported the general concept of wellness programs;

  • 76 percent said “it is appropriate for employers to offer wellness programs to promote healthy behaviors among their workers;”

  • 62 percent said “it is not appropriate for employers to require workers to pay more for their health insurance premiums if they don’t participate in those programs;”

  • 74 percent said “it is inappropriate for employers to require that workers pay more if they are unable to meet certain health goals.”
Respondents were also asked to rank persuasive arguments for and against outcomes-based wellness.

“After hearing both an argument in favor of these programs (‘workers who are unhealthy drive up health care costs and are more likely to be absent from work’) and against them (‘it is an invasion of worker’s privacy and may unfairly penalize some people who are unable to meet health goals’), seven in ten say it is not appropriate for employers to have these types of programs, including 75 percent of those with employer-sponsored coverage.”

Kaiser asked whether respondents were currently participating in an employer-sponsored wellness program. About half said their employers did offer one, and 63 percent (30 percent of those with employer coverage) said they participated. Just over a quarter said their employer has a participatory program only; 2 percent said their employer offered only an outcomes-based plan; and 16 percent said their employer offered both types of wellness programming.

The study found that the male participation rate, at 73 percent, was substantially higher than that of women, at 54 percent.

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