While many of today’s top health insurance plans include wellness programs, more businesses are adding financial fitness incentives to motivate employees to get even healthier. Surveys show the net result is improvement of overall employee health, better performance and attendance at work and reduced medical costs across the board. Lower insurance costs and a healthier, happier, more productive workforce, is a win-win for employees and employers. Activities that could make plan members eligible for financial incentives include:

  • Diet and fitness routine assessment
  • Sharing family medical history
  • Cholesterol test
  • Tobacco cessation programs
  • Biometric screening for risk factors (such as blood pressure)
  • Preventive screening (such as a mammogram)
  • Health risk assessment
  • Weight management program
  • Health club membership
  • Completing a race or triathlon
  • Hitting ideal cholesterol, blood pressure and body mass index levels

Health Plan Fitness Trends

Current trends in insurer managed fitness programs are more streamlined, intuitive, customized and convenient for the user. Friendly competition can help in these programs by encouraging workers to improve and achieve their best. Customized and user-friendly insurer fitness programs are more likely to be adopted by plan members and yield successful results.

Fewer than 20% of Americans get the right amount of exercise.

Here are some examples of current trends:

  • Personalized incentives – A fitness coordinator meets with each worker to assess the employee’s current challenges and determine potential improvements. Then a personalized plan is created with a monetary goal offered if the employee sticks to the plan and/or reaches a specific health or fitness goal within a set amount of time.
  • Making the most of technology – There are numerous fitness apps and online tools to make getting fit easier, convenient and fun. These apps can assist with keeping a food journal, tracking calories burned, providing workout ideas and staying motivated. Expect to see increased use of fitness apps and technology in the most successful health plan fitness programs and incentives such as My Fitness Pal or Strava.
  • Gym/Fitness Consistency – Employees receive points each time they go to the health club, with rewards for consistency, such as going three times per week for a set number of weeks in a row.
  • Weight Loss/BMI Challenge – A companywide competition challenging workers to achieve their weight loss goals and improve their body mass index can be implemented with a cash reward to the winner. The event would be voluntary, but even those who don’t participate will be motivated by the supportive environment for workers who do.

An insurer-managed fitness program can help employees become more proactive about their health, more productive at work and improve their attendance rate, all of which can help increase the company’s bottom line. Most employees will be motivated to become healthier and to save on their insurance costs, which is money in their pocket.

However, the downsides of insurer-managed fitness programs may include plan members feeling overwhelmed by the choices and how far they have to go to get healthy and earn a reward. Companies can potentially spend money on plans and incentives that do not resonate with employees. There’s also the risk that some aspects of a plan may be seen as discriminatory. Therefore, employers must legally offer reasonable alternatives for achieving an incentive, such as program participation or a doctor’s note.

A Win-Win for Employers and Employees

The benefits of including a fitness program within an employee health plan are both personal and financial. When executed effectively, the results can impact the business’ culture as it improve the participants’ lives. This healthier, fitness-conscious culture can then draw in more health-minded individuals to the company.

Employers should be mindful of not creating any negative effects for their workers with programs that could be seen as discriminatory and result in regulatory or civil actions. However, the majority of wellness and fitness programs evoke a positive response from workers. The prospect of better health and reduced premium costs make these programs highly beneficial for everyone.

Cost savings and employee benefits do not just apply to employees. Wellness programs can reduce costs for employers because of fewer sick days taken, higher workplace productivity and increased worker morale. Everyone wins with insurer-managed health, wellness and fitness programs.

Ohio-based McGohan Brabender, an independent health benefits and risk-management broker, offers a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) Insurance Calculator and a Health Savings Account Calculator to assist HR managers and consumers in identifying health insurance needs.