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Employers Miffed That Workers Are Not Changing Unhealthy Habits

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, March 12, 2010

Employers are frustrated that too many of their workers are failing to change their unhealthy habits and take advantage of health and wellness programs that include financial incentives, according to a survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health.

As a result, some employers are "accelerating" efforts to find ways to further motivate employees and also tighten their requirements for participation in certain healthcare plans, says Ted Nussbaum, senior consultant for Towers Watson, a global professional services company, and co-author of the survey. The National Business Group on Health is a nonprofit association of large employers.

'As employers continue to be more health-focused, they are beginning to target and reward those workers who demonstrate a real commitment to making positive lifestyle changes,' Nussbaum says.

The survey, Raising the Bar on Health Care – Moving Beyond Incremental Change, states that the effort to change employee behaviors related to health has been a 'major obstacle for many companies.' Still, most companies have no plans to abandon their health promotion programs and will continue their existing strategies, according to Nussbaum. More than 500 employers participated in the survey—the 15th annual NBGH/Towers Watson Employee Survey on Purchasing Value in Health Care—conducted between November 2009 and January 2010.

'Amid heightened cost pressures brought about by the prolonged economic downturn,' the report states, 'companies are assessing their healthcare programs to control costs and build healthier and more productive workforces.'

'Employers are increasingly frustrated by the performance of their plans today, pointing specifically to a lack of employee engagement in programs designed to change health behaviors,' the report adds.

Nussbaum says 5% of companies default members into a health plan for not fulfilling the requirements in a health or disease management program. That number is expected to increase next year, Nussbaum says.

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