Workplace Wellness Produces No Savings

Several years ago, a close friend who works as a consultant for major corporations (5,000 to 50,000 employees) on their health care plans stated that his firm did not advocate investing much in workplace wellness programs to their clients. He argued that these programs increase rather than decrease employer spending.

That comment never really sat well with me.  As a broker/consultant I continually receive marketing from wellness companies; heck, it seems like every broker on the planet (including yours truly) has a “wellness solution.”

Last week I ran into this friend and asked if he still held the same opinion. In response he pointed me to an article from Health Affairs, the leading journal of health policy thought and research. The journal’s mission is to serve as a high-level, nonpartisan forum to promote analysis and discussion on improving health and health care. Health Affairs addresses such issues as cost, quality, and access.

Photo courtesy of Health Affairs Blog
Photo courtesy of Health Affairs Blog

“Through a review of the research literature, wellness programs produce a return-on-investment (ROI) of less than 1-to-1 savings to cost,” the article asserts. “These programs increase, rather than decrease employer spending on health care with no net health benefit. The programs also cause over-utilization of screening and check-ups in generally healthy working age adult populations, put undue stress on employees, and incentivize unhealthy forms of weight-loss.”

Extremely confident in their claims, the two gentleman who published the article offered a $1,000,000 reward to anyone who could show wellness works!  Here is their challenge.

This information really makes is hard to justify what many old-line brokers/consultants are peddling. Based on the research it looks like we will be re-thinking our position!

Access the full article for more research findings.


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