Strategies for lowering medical costs through preventive health management continued to gain momentum in 2018. Wellness programs represent one of the more successful components of this approach. Wellness programs, which are often featured with high deductible health plans and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), work by helping participants make better lifestyle choices to improve their health. They typically start with an initial health screening followed by offering specific programs to address identified health problems. These programs range from exercise and weight-loss regimens to smoking prevention and diabetes management programs, among others.
By supporting healthier lifestyles, employers hoped their employees would experience fewer medical problems and, hence, incur lower medical costs. In addition, fewer sick days translated into more productivity. To encourage enrollment in company wellness programs, employers often reward employees with cash, discounts on products and services, gym memberships and other types of incentives. However, research has found that offering a comprehensive program produces the highest participation rates.
With more employers and employees recognizing the benefits of wellness programs, we saw that participation continued to grow throughout 2018.