Wellness Programs: Do They Improve Health and Reduce Costs?

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<p>Health, or wellness, incentive programs offered by employers or insurers have been gaining momentum both abroad and in the United States, where more than half of large employers now make such programs available. </p><p>A new <a href="/publications/issue-briefs/2012/may/moving-forward-wellness-incentives-under-affordable-care-act">Commonwealth Fund issue brief</a> takes a close look at Germany’s wellness incentive programs, which enroll one-quarter of the publicly insured population. While the German programs have been found to reduce health care costs, data also show that individuals with low incomes or poor health are less likely to participate than others. </p>
<p>The authors of the study, former Harkness Fellows in Health Care Policy and Practice, advise that wellness programs in the U.S. be monitored carefully, particularly as the Affordable Care Act allows employers to increase the size of the incentives they offer. The researchers caution that this change could lead to wide differences in insurance premiums between users and nonusers of these programs, creating another form of medical underwriting. </p>