News with clear eyes. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

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.

THE DIGITAL SHOEBOX

WageWorks Inc., San Mateo, Calif., has come out with a product that could make life easier for workers who are used to putting receipts for child care, medical services, and other expenses that ought to be reimbursed by a flexible spending account or other personal benefit account in a very, very safe place, and then forgetting the place.

WageWorks hopes to replace shoeboxes, special sections of wallets that can’t possibly lose anything, coat pockets and other traditional receipt receptacles with the EZ Receipts mobile application, which will work on the cell phones and other mobile devices of participants in personal benefit accounts administered by WageWorks.

WageWorks account program participants can now take pictures of receipts and forward the pictures to WageWorks. WageWorks then will pay and substantiate the claims.

PPACA SUIT
People at the U.S. Supreme Court clearly understand how excited members of the public are about suits questioning the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA).
How can one tell?
Because the court’s webside administrator has posted a “What’s New” note on the home page reporting that “The briefs in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act cases are now posted on the Docket page of the Court’s Web site.”