U.S. employees are doing too little to improve their health, and wellness vendors and other vendors are doing too little to change that situation.

Benefits managers at large employers gave that assessment in late 2009 and earlier this year when Towers Watson Inc., New York, and the National Business Group on Health, Washington, polled them for a health care purchasing value survey.

Towers Watson and the NBGH received survey responses from 507 employers with 1,000 or more employees. The employers employ a total of about 11 million people.

About 67% of the participating managers identified health plan participants’ poor health habits as a top challenge to maintaining affordable benefits coverage, according to analysts at Towers Watson and the NBGH.

The managers also found fault with the companies they have hired to persuade health plan participants to improve their health and use health care services more efficiently:

- 67% said health care consumerism programs have been disappointing.

- 66% said programs designed to change plan participants’ “lifestyle decisions” have been only slightly effective, or not at all effective.

- 57% said vendors have been only slightly effective, or not at all effective, at driving care to high-quality providers.

Benefits managers said they will do more this year to try to change participant behavior. The percentage offering employees incentives to increase health risk appraisals has increased to 66% this year, from 61% in 2009.