Monday, June 13, 2011

Employers focus on employee health to lower costs

When considering longer-term health cost trends, some employers worry about the effect of the ACA on the cost of employer-provided health care. In the short term, employers want to rely more on employee lifestyle changes to decrease health care costs. However, the inability to motivate and change habits has prompted concern. These are key findings of a recent survey of 1,028 employers from Aon Hewitt.

 The 2011 Health Care Survey found that the top health care outcomes organizations would like to achieve this year are improving employee health habits (56%), lowering health care cost increases (49%), decreasing worker health risk (44%), increasing participant awareness of health issues (37%), and enhancing participation in health improvement/disease management programs (37%). However, Aon Hewitt noted that success in these areas may be difficult, as 56% of respondents said that motivating participants to change unhealthy behaviors is the most significant challenge to accomplishing 2011 health care program goals.

In 2010, 70% of companies offered disease management programs, followed by health and wellness improvement programs (64%) and behavioral health programs (60%), according to Aon Hewitt. In addition, many organizations plan to expand efforts during the next three to five years and implement strategies that focus on total well being to improve physical and mental health (60%), absence management (53%), and integrated safety and health improvement efforts (50%).

As a way to influence employees to participate in these programs, 22% of employers will provide incentives to employees, while 10% will use programs to penalize employees for exhibiting unhealthy behaviors. Employers currently offer incentives to employees for participation in key initiatives, such as biometric screenings (33%), health risk assessments (33%), wellness programs (31%), and tobacco cessation programs (27%). Conversely, Aon Hewitt found that some employers impose a penalty for not participating in biometric screenings (5%), health risk assessments (5%), wellness programs (2%), and tobacco cessation programs (6%).

A comprehensive analysis of the Affordable Care Act, including the full text of the law and additional information on health reform implementation, and other recent developments in employee benefits, is available here.


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