Healthcare Payers Face Wellness Conundrum

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media , June 5, 2013

That's a sticking point for some employers and could make these programs too onerous, says Steve Wojcik, vice president of public policy for the National Business Group on Health, a Washington, DC-based group that represents almost 400 companies, including 66 of the Fortune 100 companies.

It remains to be seen how the new requirements "will affect wellness program costs, the ability for wellness programs to move the needle on health, and the willingness of employers to continue to offer outcomes-based wellness programs," says Wojcik.

Many employers, he says, are already expanding the alternatives for outcomes-based wellness programs to provide employees with multiple options to improve their health. "In some ways, the broader alternatives are being built into the programs and hopefully this new requirement won't add to that."

So where does this leave health plans? According to Rand, employers overwhelmingly expressed confidence that workplace wellness programs reduce medical cost, absenteeism, and health-related productivity losses.

The problem is that employers aren't quite sure how to make formal evaluations. Health plans have a treasure trove of healthcare data at their disposal that could be used to develop analytical tools for wellness programs to provide the financial confidence employers need to implement the complicated outcome-based wellness programs.

Building those tools and making them easily accessible would be a win-win for health plans and employers.

HHS Final Rule: Incentives for Wellness Programs in Group Health Plans

Margaret Dick Tocknell is a reporter/editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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