Studies on Wellness Programs

Are Wellness Programs Really the Answer?

Though a lot of companies are turning to Wellness Programs to help improve employee health and reduce health care costs, an article published in the March issue of Health Affairs reveals that “unhealthy employees might actually be punished rather than helped by such programs.” The research, conducted by Jill Horwitz of UCLA and her colleagues, also “found little evidence that such programs can easily save costs through health improvement without being discriminatory.”

You can read more about the latest issue of Health Affairs on their website here, or see the article abstract here. (Note: A subscription is required for access to the full article.)

While we do think employer and community support that encourages healthy behaviors can be beneficial, they are not a cure-all for improving health and reducing health care costs. Furthermore, Wellness Programs are problematic on the privacy front because they often involve the collection of personal information that can be sold and used without an individual’s knowledge or consent. Ultimately, we would like to see programs that are designed to protect privacy by putting patients in control of data collection, use, and disclosures, and allow individuals to choose whether or not they participate without being penalized.

Mark A. Rothstein, JD, and Heather L. Harrill, MD, JD, also published work on employer-sponsored health plans:

“Health Risk Reduction Programs in Employer-Sponsored Health Plans: Part 1 – Efficacy”
“Health Risk Reduction Programs in Employer-Sponsored Health Plans: Part 2 – Law & Ethics”