Employers Try To Spur Healthy Behaviors With Health Plan Rewards | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

Employers Try To Spur Healthy Behaviors With Health Plan Rewards

As employers try to nudge employees toward healthy behaviors, a growing number are taking aim at the medical expense accounts linked to the health plans they offer their workers.

And, increasingly, the hefty financial contributions employers are dangling in front of employees are dependent on certain conditions, such whether employees keep their blood pressure in check, for example, or agree to work with a health coach to manage their diabetes. Along with cash and reduced premiums, the contributions are one more way employers are trying to boost participation in health programs.

According to the 2013 annual health benefits survey by Towers Watson and the National Business Group on Health, released earlier this month, two-thirds of companies with 1,000 employees or more offered health insurance plans that included medical expense accounts. And 26 percent of those large employers tied their account contributions to wellness or health management behaviors. Another 29 percent of employers said they planned to do so in 2014, the survey found.

Typically it was a health plan with a relatively high deductible, and was linked to a health savings account or a "health reimbursement arrangement," an older type of savings account that can be funded only with employer money and that belongs to the employer if the worker leaves the job. Employees can use these tax-advantaged savings accounts to cover their out-of-pocket medical expenses in the high-deductible plans.

About two-thirds of employers make contributions to these sorts of medical expense accounts, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation's 2012 employer-sponsored health benefits survey. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent project of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

Employer contributions range from roughly $600 to $1,000, on average, for accounts meant to cover just one person, and from $1,000 to $1,800 for family coverage.

Tying employer account contributions to health behaviors "creates a dynamic where the money [comes] in exchange for people being positively engaged," says Alexander Domaszewicz, a health care specialist at Mercer, an employee benefits consulting firm. "We've got a good body of evidence that having people pay more attention to their health can lead to good outcomes."

Copyright 2013 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/.

NPR

Weekend Musher Finds Dogs Keep Her Hanging On

Julia Bayly of Fort Kent, Maine, works as a reporter at the Bangor Daily News. Her passion outside of work is dog sledding. It's the latest installment in our hobby series "Alter Egos."
NPR

Real Vanilla Isn't Plain. It Depends On (Dare We Say It) Terroir

There's no such thing as plain vanilla — at least if you're talking about beans from the vanilla orchid. Whether they're from Tahiti or Madagascar, vanilla can be creamy, spicy or even floral.
NPR

Texas Voter ID Law Goes To Trial

A federal court will hear a challenge to the Texas voter ID law next week. It's an important and closely-watched voting rights case that could end up in the Supreme Court.
NPR

New Amazon Series Pilots Fall Short Of A TV Revolution

NPR TV critic Eric Deggans ranks Amazon's new batch of five series pilots, asking why none of them seem break the rules of TV quite enough to draw attention.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.