Workplace Wellness Programs have their first Check-up….

February 7, 2014

….and here’s the post-mortem

While they mean well, according to a recent report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Workplace Wellness Programs do not work well. In fact, The Rand Corporation’s comprehensive analysis of the evidence found that these programs have resulted in, at best, minimal improvement in employee health and no impact at all on healthcare costs. What makes this report most timely is the legislation contained within The Affordable Care Act (ACA; Obamacare) that raises the level of financial incentives employers can offer employees for participating, or for reaching specific clinical targets, in a wellness program from a 20% to 30% reduction in their health care premium and up to a 50% reduction for smoking cessation programs. Such premium reductions can represent up to 10% of the income for the average American employee. Rand found little evidence that such financial incentives actually drive employee participation in wellness programs and more over, other recent research shows that what employers may intend to act as financial incentives (carrots) to participate, in reality behave more as financial penalties (sticks) for employees who do not participate, or fail to reach specific clinical targets, in workplace wellness programs.

So, originating in the late 70’s and reaching critical mass in the first decade of the current century, the Workplace Wellness Movement finally underwent its first real check-up, and the results are not too healthy:

  1. Health behavior has become a de facto part of the job requirement.
  2. Shifting of healthcare costs from the healthiest to the least healthy members of the workforce.
  3. No cut in employers’ health care costs

While the prognosis is clearly not a good one, this author recommends against abandoning ship, and instead, offers a remedy for transforming workplace wellness programs into a highly effective weapon in our nation’s arsenal for its two-front-war against the declining health of its workforce and skyrocketing healthcare costs.

Before unveiling his remedy this author, being a physician will first show the diagnosis for the underperformance of the workplace wellness movement as well as the historic and scientific bases from which he derived it.

End Post

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP

Internist-Psychopharmacologist-Corporate Wellness Consultant

Founder-CEO and Personal Physician at:

Optimal Performance MD


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