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Tuesday, March 18, 2014 |

The Wellness Program Sweet Spot

One of the benefits the company I work for offers is a wellness program. Through the program, I can earn points for different healthy living activities including preventative appointments, fitness challenges, working out, attending lunch and learns, and more. If I earn a certain amount of points, I am then eligible for a cash reward.

Wellness programs aren’t new, but they have been getting more attention lately as a result of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), more commonly known as Obamacare. One part of the ACA deals with financial benefits for small companies that offer a wellness program for their employees.

It’s advantageous for employers to offer some form of a wellness program to their employees. Healthy employees mean lower health-insurance costs. Wellness programs can be relatively simple, like offering to pay for employee’s gym memberships or more complex, for example, bringing in experts to teach about certain health-related topics, on-site health screenings, or even building a fitness center on site.

My company relies heavily on employees self-reporting their activities except for certain things that require doctor confirmation or online quizzes. However, I have heard of some companies and insurance companies using fitness trackers and even offering a benefit or paying for employees to wear them. These fitness trackers can report a variety of things like sleep, physical activity, heart rate, and more.

I have mixed feelings about companies using fitness-tracker data. I can see the benefit for the user. The tracker provides motivation and accountability and companies may offer a greater financial reward to employees that wear them. But it’s also a little too Big Brother for me. I’m not sure I want my insurance company or my employer knowing what time I go to bed or how many steps I took in a day.

I really like the wellness program my company offers. While it’s not perfect, it does provide motivation to be well and live well. But I can see wellness plans becoming more and more popular for all companies in the next few years and many of them likely will involve some kind of fitness tracker. As insurance and health costs continue to rise, companies will look for ways to reduce these costs and encouraging employees to be healthy will be one of the first steps.

Does your company offer a wellness program? What are your thoughts?

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