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Employers spending money to make money with wellness programs

Employers are constantly looking to cut costs in a struggling economy and many are learning that spending money promoting wellness among workers is a worthwhile investment as it not only can save funds in the long run but it also can increase morale and productivity in the work place.

The increasing popularity of corporate health and wellness programs was revealed in a recent MetLife Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study that found nearly half of all U.S. employers offer a wellness program, which is almost double of the number recorded in 2005. Furthermore, nearly 75 percent of companies that employ 500 individuals or more offer a similar program, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“The goal of a wellness program isn’t just to lower insurance claims and pharmacy costs but to better manage absences and have fewer illnesses and injuries,” LuAnn Heinen, vice president of the business health group and director of its Institute on Innovation in Workforce Well-being, told the news source. “The goal is to get a more effective employee.”

Gone are the days of businesses offering no-strings-attached incentives to promote productivity and increase morale among employees. Companies are now looking for more bang for their buck and are finding it in wellness programs with studies showing that for every dollar a company puts into a program, it sees see a $3 return in the form of fewer sick days and higher employee retention, according to the newspaper.

Life Technologies is one company that is taking the wellness plan a step further by including it into health insurance coverage. According to the news source, the biotech company offers two health plans, one with a smaller deductible that requires health assessment and screening.

“We said if you engage, we will put money into your health savings account to help pay for those high deductibles,” Mike Paolucci, head of Life Technologies’ global compensation and benefits, told the news source. “We offer various incentives to make it financially attractive to be in the wellness program.”

Morningstar, an independent investment research provider, recently released its third quarter financial results this year and found that incentive compensation and costs related to employee benefits represented roughly 35 percent or $5.7 million of the overall increase it experienced in operating expenses.