Finance & Enjoyment Blog

CPA Colorado on Workplace Wellness

Workplace wellness programs are aimed to encourage workers to be healthier; workout more and eat balanced meals. These programs hopefully lead to happier and healthier employees. Over the past few years, these programs have been touted as successful when 2013 premiums were the lowest they have been in almost 20 years. However, according to a recent New York Times article, research shows that these programs do not work as well as advertised.

Wellness programs have grown into a $6 billion industry because employers believe these programs work. In fact, asked which programs are most effective at reducing costs, more firms picked wellness programs than any other approach. Most studies of wellness programs are of poor quality; using weak methods that suggest that wellness programs are associated with lower savings. Or they consider only short-term effects that aren’t likely to be sustained. Many such studies are written by the wellness industry itself. More rigorous studies tend to find that wellness programs don’t save money and, with few exceptions, do not substantially improve health.

Wellness programs can achieve cost savings for employers by shifting higher cost of care to their workers. Those employees who don’t meet the demands and goals of predetermined wellness programs end up paying more than those employees that meet specific goals. The Affordable Care Act encourages this approach. It raises the legal limit on penalties that employers can charge for health-contingent wellness programs to 30 percent of total premium costs. Employers can also charge tobacco users up to 50 percent more in premiums. Needless to say, this strikes some people as unfair and has led to objections by workers at some organizations, as well as lawsuits.

How to use this information

Some wellness programs can save the employee and employer money in the long run if designed properly. For more information on how wellness programs can benefit and affect your bottom line, call your KKB CPA Colorado at 303-815-1100.

Do you offer a workplace wellness program at your practice?

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