Employer Sponsored Health Promotion Programs

Employer-Sponsored Health Promotion Programs - Health Cost Containment

Updated June 2013

Cost Containment header

The following NCSL Issue brief was distributed to state legislators and legislative staff across the country.

Employer-Sponsored Health Promotion Programs - PDF File
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Cost Containment Strategy and Logic

Employer-sponsored health promotion programs—also known as worksite or workplace wellness programs—help employees become healthier by encouraging regular physical activity, stress management, healthy eating and not smoking. Providing ways to change behaviors associated with a higher incidence of chronic disease and disability— known as modifiable health risk factors—can lead to healthier employees, lower health care and health insurance costs, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity.

Summary of Health Cost Containment and Efficiency Strategies - Brief #13- Employer-Sponsored Health Promotion Programs

State/Private Sector Examples  Strategy Description Target of Cost Containment Evidence of Effect on Costs
Arkansas, Alabama, Delaware, University of Miami, Whole Foods and others Evidence indicates that well-designed worksite wellness programs can reduce health expenditures and reduce absenteeism, at least for large employers, including state government. The main targets of worksite wellness programs are chronic diseases, such as diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease. Research for this brief did not uncover any studies of the effectiveness of state laws to encourage more employers to offer, or more employees to participate in, worksite wellness programs.

Additional Resources

The following reports and articles are published by third-party sources. NCSL is not responsible for the opinions expressed in such materials.
  • Benefits of Health Promotion Programs.  Workplace health programs have many potential benefits for both employers and employees. Posted by Division of Population Health/Workplace Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10/23/2013.

  • Workplace Wellness Programs Ineffective, Report Finds, Countering Companies' Claims. Describes a RAND study underway in 2013 - by Reuters; released  

  • Firms push participation in wellness programs- Some companies are turning to penalties, such as higher insurance premiums, to encourage participation in corporate wellness programs if incentives don't work, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Some popular trends in workplace wellness include health-risk assessments, on-site clinics and company gyms. Wall Street Journal, 10/31/10.
  • Pro/ Con: The fairness of health insurance incentive programs - Many employers offer discounts to workers who take steps toward better health. This can cut costs and encourage wellness, but it could also penalize those who can't make the changes and yet will pay more in premiums. LA Times, 1/3/11.
  • Chart: Top 5 Benefit-Based Health and Wellness Incentives
  • The third annual Health and Wellness Incentives Use e-survey in March 2011 by the Healthcare Intelligence Network found that according to 156 healthcare organizations, benefit-based incentives are proving most successful at effecting positive health behavior change. Posted August, 2011:
Posted by NCSL from HIN, May 2012

About this NCSL project

NCSL’s Health Cost Containment and Efficiency Series will describe two dozen alternative policy approaches, with an emphasis on documented and fiscally calculated results. The project is housed at the NCSL Health Program in Denver, Colorado. It is led by Richard Cauchi (Program Director) and Martha King (Group Director) with Barbara Yondorf as lead researcher. 

NCSL gratefully acknowledges the financial support for this publication series from The Colorado Health Foundation and Rose Community Foundation of Denver, Colorado.

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