Many wellness incentives meaningless to consumers

Wellness programs are a strategy to control rising healthcare costs, but according to a recent survey, many wellness incentives are meaningless to participants.

Wellness programs are at the top of the list for managed healthcare executives today, as a strategy/tool to control rising healthcare costs. But, according to a recent survey, many wellness incentives are meaningless to wellness program participants.

Following on the heels of research suggesting that nearly 90% of wellness program sponsors are now offering incentives-now with increased regulatory monitoring from the EEOC-HealthMine queried 750 consumers in wellness plans about the effectiveness of incentives.

According to the April HealthMine Wellness Program Member survey, only 45% of wellness program members say incentives are meaningful to help manage their health. Further, results show that 45% of wellness participants don’t earn all their program incentives. The number one reason program participants cited for relinquishing rewards was the belief that they are already doing what they need to.

“These programs have shown limited success/ROI to date,” says Bryce Williams, CEO and President of HealthMine. “As managed healthcare execs evolve their wellness strategies, understanding how to optimize incentives-a key ingredient to wellness programs-will make the difference in success. This data provides key insight into how/why incentives can be more effective for managed healthcare execs implementing wellness programs.”

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When asked why wellness participants leave money on the table, 12% were concerned about data security/confidentiality; 22% needed more/better reminders; 23% said it was inconvenient; 24% said that the incentive wasn’t meaningful to them; and 36% said that they are already doing what they need to be doing to be healthy.

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Incentives are not necessarily connected to disease management, cancer screenings and other key preventive health actions, according to Williams. “Also, incentives aren’t always aligned with the desires of program participants. Bigger incentives don’t necessarily lead to greater engagement when it comes to wellness,” he says.

What’s more, fewer than half of consumers say they are likely to complete these actions without any incentive. For example, only 14% of consumers are motivated to complete a smoking cessation program without any incentive, yet 68% say their wellness program includes zero incentives to quit smoking. According to the survey:

 No incentive offeredLikely to complete with no incentive
Smoking cessation68%14%
Disease management84%28%
Biometric screening70%30%
Fitness/weight loss49%44%
Cancer screening81%46%

Sponsor incentives aren’t necessarily aligned with the wishes of program participants, according to the survey. For example, nearly one-third of program participants prefer cash incentives, but only 18% say they get them.

 Type of incentive offeredType of incentive most motivating to earn
Gift card28%17%
Reduced health premium32%26%
HSA contribution18%8%
Debit card7%4%

When asked what level of incentive would motivate participants to take action to improve their health based on their goals/needs, half of respondents said they would be motivated by $100 or less:

Zero -- I would just do it to be healthier25%
More than $500 once I reach the goal16%