Health care costs continue to soar, and the effect on a business’ bottom line is staggering. With over 60 percent of Americans getting their health insurance coverage through an employer-based plan, the increasing evidence that wellness promotion may lead to reductions in health care costs, as well as health insurance premiums, has raised employer enthusiasm for workplace wellness programs. There are myriad additional reasons, too, why employers might benefit from employee wellness initiatives, such as reduced absenteeism and increased productivity.
A study conducted on workplace wellness programs by Katherine Baicker, David Cutler, and Zirhui Song found that medical costs “fall about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs, and absentee day costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent. This average return on investment suggests that the wider adoption of such programs could prove beneficial for budgets and productivity as well as health outcomes.”
The authors of the study conducted a rigorous meta-analysis of the literature on costs and savings associated with employer-based wellness promotion policies and then compiled standardized estimates of return on investment (ROI) from those studies. They found a large positive ROI, “suggesting that the wider adoption of such programs could prove beneficial for budgets as well as health.”
Workplace-based wellness programs that could impact prevention have been showcased by President Obama and in Congressional hearings. Policy-makers, insurers, and employers have shown an increasing interest in methods of improving health while lowering costs. Disease prevention and health promotion are ways of achieving better health outcomes at lower costs.
Health care reform debate has included active discussion of wellness program promotion with the hope that such programs will be a key component in slowing health care cost growth. The authors of the above cited study state that “critical review of the existing evidence suggests that employer-based wellness initiatives may not only improve health, but may result in substantial savings over even short-run horizons. . . . . [T]his is a very promising avenue for improving health and productivity.”