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Employee Wellness Programs Get a Shot in the Arm

Since my September 2014 blog, Wellness Outsourcing on the Rise, there have been some key developments in employee wellness programs, along with new Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidance that enables employers to offer incentives to wellness participants of up to 30% of their insurance premium.

With employees keenly aware of the annual rise in their out-of-pocket health insurance premiums, this provides a great incentive for employees to participate in their employer offerings. Examples where this may be utilized include:

  • Education
  • Clinical services including prevention services
  • Programs and health initiatives, e.g. fitness centers, weight loss, including rewards for achievement of objectives.

In addition, new developments since my last wellness blog include:

  • Morneau Shepell enhanced its MY EAP app to include a Financial Wellness Score assessment that helps users gauge their financial health and complements other tools that measure stress levels and relationship quality
  • Xerox launched an incentive-based financial wellness program, SavIncent, to improve employees’ financial health and retirement readiness. SavIncent is linked to the company’s retirement savings plan and uses monetary incentives to reward employees for participating in wellness activities
  • IBM developed a Watson-based mobile app, Pathway Panorama, to analyze information about an individual’s lifestyle and wellness-related biomarker data to provide personalized options to help the user and their physician make informed decisions about living a healthier life. Panorama will also monitor a user’s health and wellness information, and ping the user with any new relevant recommendations
  • Ceridian expanded its LifeWorks wellness offering, launching a sleep coaching program which includes research-based information and support on healthy sleep practices
  • Benefitfocus launched a new benefits software offering for consumers, employers, insurance carriers, and brokers that includes a wellness ecosystem including health assessments and rewards programs via RedBrick Health
  • Businessolver launched a wellness administration technology offering, HealthTracker, to connect wellness and insurance-based incentives
  • Towers Watson partnered with U.K.-based Fitbug and Australia-based HealthLogix to launch a web-based health management offering, HealthVantage. It incorporates new technology such as wearable devices and online applications for smart devices, and features for employees including a wellness assessment. Features for employers include a corporate dashboard to show overall workforce health.

According to ManpowerGroup's annual Talent Shortage Survey released May 18, 2015, 32% of U.S. employers report difficulties filling job vacancies due to talent shortages, which is down from 40% in 2014. And, while there are many factors contributing to talent retention, I believe increased focus on employee wellness, leading to increased employee engagement and satisfaction, is an important contributing factor.

Benefits providers are making smart choices in continuing to develop their wellness offerings, and this combined with the new EEOC guidance has given employee wellness programs a welcome shot in the arm. 

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