JAMA Forum: Do Employee Wellness Programs Improve Health and Reduce Spending?

Interesting article about employee wellness programs. A study of PepsiCo’s wellness program and its impact on health care spending. There were two components to their wellness program, lifestyle management and disease management. They found the biggest savings per dollar spent to occur in the disease management component compared to the lifestyle component. Makes sense to me. Manage the sickest individuals (the people who spend the most on healthcare) and there is a greater chance to save money. If you can prevent these people from getting worse or developing another chronic condition, there is a potential for great savings on healthcare costs for this population.

news@JAMA

For some time, wellness programs have been growing in popularity across the United States. At this point, it appears that about half of employers with more than 50 employees offer them. But almost allreally large employers, those with at least 50 000 employees, do so.

The Affordable Care Act expands the use of such programs, allowing employers to offer even more in penalties or savings if they meet certain criteria or if they engage in certain preventive activities. Many companies believe that these programs have the potential to improve health and, by doing so, reduce spending in such a way as to make them cost-effective.

Whether they actually accomplish these goals is not well understood. A review of randomized controlled trials found that wellness programs had no significant effect on blood pressure, blood sugar, or cholesterol. Another such review found that lifestyle programs that seek to improve weight…

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