The Wellness Train Is Leaving; Are You on Board?

John Marcille

For some time now, the most requested article on our Web site has been one that we did a year and a half ago about employers’ growing interest in wellness programs. To clarify, it was the article most requested by people who work in health plans and pharmacy benefit management companies.

If that is the case, we reasoned, it was surely time to devote a large chunk of an issue to wellness programming — how and where it is growing, why it is in increased demand, and what the leading health plans are doing to get their share of the business.

This is that issue. You can find varying definitions of wellness programming, but operationally, they all pretty much boil down to get people to avoid behavior that will bring on chronic disease, or at least to delay the onset of chronic disease as long as possible.

I’m a plan enrollee. I’d prefer not to get diabetes, and if you tell me how and even give me a little incentive, I might change my behavior in the right direction. My employer agrees. My health plan probably says it agrees, but under the present way we do health care, it might not benefit, since if we were all healthy, health care would be the wrong business to be in. No chance of us all being healthy, thank heaven.

In any event, wellness is riding high, and health plans should consider using their expertise, data resources, and business connections to design programs that will appeal to buyers. Or they could ignore this growing source of income. Their choice.

But when you consider the Milken Institute’s report that chronic illness costs the U.S. economy more than $1.3 trillion a year, this wellness craze isn’t going away. I could go on, but don’t have to. You’ll find plenty of numbers in all the articles and also suggestions on what to do and how to do it.

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