Do Workplace Wellness Programs Work? Usually Not

Half of all organizations with 50 or more employees have wellness programs according to the RAND Corporation, but not all of them are working. Austin Frakt and Aaron E. Carroll explain for The New York Times. Cost per employee of the wellness program has in many instances doubled since 2009, and wellness programs have become a $6 billion industry. Research suggests that businesses believe wellness programs are more effective than greater employee cost sharing and tighter medical networks, but the authors find that there is not a lot of legitimate data to support this notion. Wellness programs are furthermore sometimes used as an excuse to charge higher premiums against people deemed unhealthy, which raises issues of discrimination.

The one instance the authors do cite of a wellness program succeeding is at PepsiCo, where a concentrated program was introduced that intended to cut risks of specific costly diseases and did eventually succeed in cutting costs after its third year. In a nutshell, if you believe the authors’ argument, you might want to consider creating a wellness program with a very narrow and specific scope if you are to realize true savings sooner rather than later. You can view the full article here:

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