Many large corporations are beginning to appreciate the impact of wellness programs on employee happiness and productivity, and they are starting to get creative to increase participation. Some have gone as far as installing on-site athletic facilities, offering free subscriptions to mobile applications, and providing “wearables” to track progress. (In an aside, The Northwestern School of Professional Studies found that offering wearable devices to beneficiaries has the potential to save $200 billion on healthcare costs over 25 years.)1
Another strategy is to “pay” employees to take action. According to a recent survey from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and Fidelity Investments, eighty-six percent of employers offer financial incentives in their wellness programs, up 11% from 2017.2 Kaiser’s 2018 Employer Health Benefits Survey shows that rewards range from $150 to over $2,000.3 (Though only a small percentage of firms offer incentives that high. See Figure 1.)
As the push for workplace wellness continues, the question still arises: how can firms get more workers to participate?
Well, let’s try to place this into another context.
As the graph indicates, 54% of financial incentives are under $500 per year, and many of these are only awarded upon completion of a program based on biometric screenings and/or health-risk assessments.
This just may not be enough of a motivation to substitute a salad for fries or shut off Netflix to take a walk.
The HealthyCapital approach uses actuarial data to show individuals how much money they can save (from their own pocket) through very simple changes (like going for a walk a few times a week). It also shows how much longer a person with a chronic condition (type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, smoking) can live just by making these few, basic lifestyle changes.
Here are some examples of people who can benefit from understanding how visiting the doctor less translates into substantial savings in their pocket.
Dan, a 40-year-old male with high blood pressure, will live one year longer and save an average of $4,320 in annual healthcare costs between age 40 and 65 by simply limiting his salt intake, reducing his drinking to one nightly glass of wine, and gardening twice a week (a hobby he enjoys). If he puts that money into his 401(k) or HSA, that will be $182,000 at age 65!
Cheryl, A 35-year-old woman with type II diabetes will live 4.4 years longer and save $4,280 per year in annual healthcare costs by following her diet, attending doctors appointments, taking medications as prescribed (50% of U.S. adults don’t after 6 months), and going for a walk a few times a week.4 Put into her retirement account, that savings would equal $257,000 at age 65!
These impressive results do not require personal trainers, spin classes, or counting 10,000 steps; they are very basic lifestyle adjustments that anyone can – and should – make, once they are shown how much money can be saved annually and over a lifetime.
That’s another powerful reason, in addition to the benefits that companies already offer, to participate in a company’s wellness plan.
2 “NBGH Press Release.” National Business Group on Health, www.businessgrouphealth.org/news/nbgh-news/press-releases/press-release-details/?ID=343.
3 Published: Oct 03, 2018. “2018 Employer Health Benefits Survey – Summary of Findings.” The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 18 Mar. 2019, www.kff.org/report-section/2018-employer-health-benefits-survey-summary-of-findings/.
4 Data provided by HealthyCapital