Amid Rising Health Costs, Companies Turn to Employee Wellness Programs

Rising health costs and an aging workforce have encouraged employers to adopt or expand wellness programs aimed at boosting the health of employees.

What's the Latest?

In an age of rising health costs and facing the prospect of a forthcoming government squeeze, more companies are setting up wellness programs for their employees. These programs encourage workers to maintain healthy lifestyles, thereby reducing medical costs for the firm down the line. On paper, the programs seem like a win-win. In practice, evidence suggests there are bumps on the road. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:

Studies have shown that the programs have a limited ability to reduce costs. They also raise concerns about privacy and discrimination against older workers or those who are more likely to have chronic conditions.

What's the Big Idea?

The major glaring problem (among other bits of lousiness) with the American healthcare system is that costs are ridiculously, almost prohibitively high. Until that affliction is cured, there will always be issues related to its symptoms. But with no reasonable solution in sight, prevention appears to be the best protection against risks both health-related and financial. Many companies offer incentive programs to employees to encourage them to maintain healthy habits or go in for routine check-ups. Some have begun experimenting with penalties. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, again:

These penalties most often stick employees who do not participate with larger premiums or deductibles, but they also can come in the form of a straight monthly surcharge, deducted from paychecks.

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