Companies love to sell wellness services, and employers love to buy them.
What could be warmer and fuzzier than cutting benefits costs by helping workers to live longer, healthier, more productive lives?
But Kunal Pandya, an analyst at Aite Group L.L.C., Boston, writes in a report on the U.S. prevention and wellness programs that lack of customer awareness and lack of clear participant incentives have caused many of the programs to fizzle.
The root of the problm is that the people who choose and help design the programs are employers, not consumers, Pandya says.
To succeed, program providers and sponsors must do more to reach out to consumers and offer consumers incentives that the consumers themselves value, not simply assume consumers want what the boss wants, Pandya says.
SO MUCH FOR CARROTS
Meanwhile, consultants at Towers Watson & Company, New York (NYSE:TW), have surveyed benefits managers at 335 U.S. and Canadian employers and found that some bosses are getting a litte tired of the role of Mr. Nice Boss.
About 80% of the benefits managers surveyed said their companies will be offering financial rewards to workers who participate in wellness programs in 2012, up from 54% this year.
But the percentage of employers that applies penalties, such as increases in premiums or deductibles, to workers who fail to complete wellness program requirements is also increasing — to 38% in 2012, up from 19% this year.