An increasing number of insurers and employers in California and across the U.S. are offering employees incentives for adopting healthy behaviors, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The growing use of incentives comes as employers try to rein in escalating health care costs.
Health Reform Law Could Increase Use
The federal health reform law could boost the use of such incentive programs.
In 2014, the law will allow employers to reimburse workers for up to 30% of health insurance costs for meeting health goals, such as losing excess weight or controlling cholesterol levels. The current federal reimbursement limit is 20%.
Details of the Incentives
Next year, Blue Shield of California will introduce the Blue Groove plan, which will offer rebates of as much as $500 on insurance or health care costs for policyholders who complete health questionnaires and receive screenings.
SeeChange Health, a California insurer, in July launched insurance plans that give workers at small- and medium-sized businesses up to $500 toward health care costs for filling out health questionnaires, getting checkups and having blood tests.
Meanwhile, DreamWorks Animation provides no-cost Weight Watchers courses, pays for employees' health club memberships, spends as much as $2,500 on smoking cessation programs and has opened health clinics at its Glendale and Redwood City offices.
Thousands of employees are participating in such incentive programs, but some health care experts say the rewards are unfair for some low-income workers who might work longer hours, have limited access to healthier food and experience more stress from financial insecurity.
Economists have said it is too soon to determine whether the incentive programs will turn out to be successful (Helfand, Los Angeles Times, 10/25).