Wellness programs expected surge

Employers continue to be true believers in wellness programs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study (http://tinyurl.com/wellness-stuff), despite skepticism heard in some quarters. The most vociferous critic these days is Al Lewis, the founder of the Disease Management Purchasing Consortium.

As Managed Care reported earlier (http://tinyurl.com/Lewis-take), Lewis doubts that wellness programs do much good and thinks that some of them might actually do harm.

Others beg to differ (http://tinyurl.com/wellness-letter and http://healthaffairs.org/blog/author/rongoetzel/). The debate is growing and even consumer publications are starting to notice (http://tinyurl.com/Penn-State-wellness).

Still, as Kaiser reports, “Virtually all large employers (200 or more workers) and most smaller employers offer at least one wellness program.” Kaiser surveyed more than 2,000 randomly selected employers with three or more workers by telephone between January and May.

“Firms offering health benefits continue to offer wellness and health promotion programs, 24% offer employee health risk assessments, and 57% offer at least one disease management program. Small percentages of these firms use financial incentives to encourage workers to participate or complete these activities.” Seventy-seven percent of employers offer at least one of these programs: weight loss, smoking cessation, personal health coaching, flu shots, vaccinations, and biometric screening.