Healthcare reform is a subject of heated debate in the U.S. and other countries, as costs continue to spiral out of control. In this country, about half of all residents are insured by their employer according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. This means that employers can see a direct benefit to their company’s bottom line if their employees are more healthy. We’ve covered several employee health incentive programs in the past, but a new study from the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments shows that these have become part of the typical large business.

Making Well-Being Work” is the group’s report on their ninth annual employer-sponsored health and well-being survey. 163 companies responded, nearly two-thirds of which have 5,000 or more employees. Perhaps the most telling result is that employee incentive programs increased from 6 out of 8 companies in 2017 to 7 out of 8 in 2018. The maximum financial incentive paid to employees grew to $784 per employee. 43% of employees earned the maximum incentive, while another 32% earned a partial amount. That means that 3 out of 4 employees received a financial incentive to participate in a health and wellness program at work.

In addition to dealing with physical health, the vast majority of these programs also address emotional and mental health, personal financial security, and stress issues of employees. What are the anticipated benefits for their employers? In addition to the obvious goal of trying to manage healthcare costs, employers also cited improved employee engagement, increased productivity, and reduced absenteeism. All of these are outcomes that can have a direct and significant impact on a company’s financial bottom line.

While these programs will not apply to the other half of U.S. residents, these incentive programs are important because they are generating important data about what works and what doesn’t. It also gives us the opportunity to analyze the return on investment of these programs, without having to wait for permission or initiatives by the government, insurance companies, or healthcare providers. We have reason to hope that the experience from these experiments in the private sector will lead to improved ways to encourage healthier practices by the rest of the population.