Few employers seem interested in taking advantage of the wellness incentives of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
That was one of the key findings of a study released Monday by Virgin HealthMiles and Workforce magazine. Nearly 10,000 employees at 1,308 workplaces participated in the survey, titled “The Business of Healthy Employees.” Eighty percent of the companies surveyed offer health and wellness programs.
Only a quarter of the companies surveyed said they were planning to use wellness provisions of the PPACA to enhance employee health benefits programs — despite the fact that the law would allow employers to substantially increase the percentage of benefits represented by financial incentives.
This could be a major boat that employers are about to miss, because the study also indicated that such incentives matter to employees. The study said:
“In 2014, the Affordable Care Act will provide additional provisions for health and wellness initiatives. Only 25.8% of the organizations surveyed indicate having any plans to take advantage of the wellness provisions offered in the ACA. This is partially due to either a lack of understanding of the benefits offered (15.9%) or lack of desire to take advantage (19.3%).
“There are a number of reasons why companies should look at taking advantage of the ACA provisions. Starting in 2014, employers can raise the total amount of financial incentives offered from 20% to 30% of the organization’s health care plan costs. The ceiling goes to 50% for smoking cessation programs. This allows organizations to raise the financial incentives offered to employees who participate in the program, and can lead to increased savings while gaining the positive return on investment.”
Companies that take advantage of the law’s provisions are likely to have happier and more engaged workers, said Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin HealthMiles. “The opportunity to increase your wellness incentives enables you to further customize your corporate wellness initiative and make sure you’re offering a comprehensive and diversified set of programs that best meet the needs of your workforce.”
Other key conclusions from the study included:
Employees value health and wellness programs. In all, 87.2% of employees surveyed said they consider health and wellness packages when choosing an employer.
Health and wellness programs positively influence an organization’s culture of wellness. Seventy percent of workers reported that wellness programs “positively influence the culture at work,” and 57.5% say wellness program involvement “has had a positive influence on their colleagues, friends and family.”
Incentives matter. Though the dominant motive for employee participation in health and wellness programs is to improve their health (78.2%), incentives are important — 61.4% of employees say the incentives they earn through participating in wellness programs are a key reason they participate.
Communication of benefits package information lacks clarity. Half of employees said “they are not aware of, or need to know more about, health and wellness programs offered by employers.
Metrics are a challenge. In contrast to last year's results, measurement was a much larger issue among employers this year. Only 31% of organizations reported that they were “satisfied with their health and wellness metrics.” (Does anyone see a business opportunity here?)
Also of interest to benefits managers were the findings that compared benefits of interest to employees to the benefits offered by employers. For instance, only 12.7% of employees said they cared about smoking-cessation incentive programs, yet 50.3% of employers said they offered them. Nearly 80% of employees said they wanted healthy on-site food choices, but only a third of employers said they offered such choices.
Better matches were found in weight-management incentive programs: 56% of workers wanted them, and 49% of companies had them. Similarly, 36% of employees said they were interested in mental health management programs, and 38% of companies offer them.
The study was commissioned as part of National Employee Wellness Month.
This article was originally posted at BenefitsPro.com, a sister site of Credit Union Times.