Workplace wellness has become a $6 billion industry in the United States. After all, what company doesn’t want to cut their health benefits bill? But do wellness programs actually save companies money? Our Square-Off panel had some polarizing views on the subject.

Soeren Mattke says the RAND Wellness Programs Study, which included almost 600,000 employees at seven employers, showed that wellness programs are having little if any effect on health-care costs. Mattke, a RAND scientist, also says the findings were confirmed by an analysis of 10 years of data from a Fortune 100 employer whose wellness program includes lifestyle management and disease-management services.

On the other hand, Mattke’s opponents in this edition of Square-Off say wellness programs produce documented cost savings from lower absenteeism, fewer insurance claims, and lower turnover from employee disengagement and burnout.

“There are quite a number of independent articles, analyses, and white papers that say wellness programs have a positive ROI. Most range in the $1.50 to $3.00 (per $1 invested) range,” writes Mike Tinney, CEO of Fitness Interactive Experience.

He adds: “If you’re paying $48,000 for a program that supports 1,000 people and one less person has a heart attack (statistically, you should have two heart attacks per year in a group of 1,000), the heart attack alone has an average cost of $38,501. The program essentially pays for itself with a single incidence.”

Are wellness programs prudent investments? What do you think? Use our comments section below to join the debate. CFO will publish the best comments in a future story.

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2 responses to “Wellness Programs: Tell Us What You Think”

  1. If you are interested in getting the inside scoop on what makes
    workplace wellness programs work, visit our website:
    http://www.jhsph.edu/research/centers-and-institutes/institute-for-health-and-productivity-studies/projects/current-projects/promoting-healthy-workplaces/
    Also, wonderful examples of successful workplace programs with documentary evidence that they not only improve population health but also save money for the organization — go to: http://www.thehealthproject.com

  2. Every employer is unique, and wellness programs can be an effective business tool to help reduce long term employee benefit costs if designed and implemented thoughtfully. Some employers view a wellness program the same way they view a company picnic – it’s a fun thing to do and a nice employee benefit. For others, wellness programs are designed squarely to reduce health care costs over the long term. There is no silver bullet when it comes to wellness program ROI. However, when a wellness program is put together thoughtfully and implemented well, it’s never not a wise investment.

    To be a prudent investment, wellness programs need an actively supportive senior leadership team, effective and timely communications and an incentive design that rewards goal achievement and is rich enough to motivate behavior change. Our clients understand the importance of return on investment and the importance of improving profitability and building a strong culture. Over time and with fine tuning, most wellness programs will help achieve both objectives.

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