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From Health Reform WK-EDGE, May 6, 2019

Large employers expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on wellness plans in 2019

By Lauren Bikoff, MLS

Although the per-employee incentive dipped slightly from last year, more employers are offering incentives to spouses and partners.

Large employers are expected to spend an average of $3.6 million on wellness plans in 2019 to help create a healthier and more productive workforce, according to recent research from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH) and Fidelity Investments. The annual Health and Well-Being Survey found that 40 percent of these budgets will be applied to providing employees and their spouses/domestic partners with financial incentives to encourage participation.

The survey noted that the average per-employee incentive decreased slightly to $762 for 2019, down from $784 in 2018, but is still nearly three times the average employee incentive of $260 reported in 2009. In addition, the percentage of employers offering incentives to spouses and domestic partners increased to 58 percent in 2019, up from 54 percent in 2018, while the average incentive for spouses/domestic partners increased to $601, up from $596 in 2018.

Overall, employers are expected to continue to focus on financial incentives as a key benefit within well-being platforms in the future, as 33 percent of employers indicated they plan to continue to increase the amount of financial incentives for employees over the next three to five years.

The survey also found the following:

  • Employers are interested in providing programs focused on well-being beyond physical health, including emotional/mental health (92 percent), financial health (88 percent), community involvement (69 percent), social connectedness (54 percent), and job satisfaction (43 percent).
  • More than half (56 percent) of employers surveyed offer well-being programs to their global employees, an increase from 44 percent in 2018, and another 14 percent are considering extending their well-being program to workers in multiple geographies by next year. However, only 34 percent of employers have a global strategy in place, while half (50 percent) let local markets focus on well-being as needed.
  • Two of the top objectives of well-being programs in the U.S. are to manage health care costs (82 percent) and improve employee productivity/reduce absenteeism (59 percent), while the top objectives globally are to improve employee engagement/performance (82 percent) and align employees with the corporate culture (72 percent).


"As more employers recognize the relationship between employee well-being and productivity, well-being programs have taken on an increasingly meaningful role in employers’ business strategies. However, as the benefits landscape continues to evolve, employers need to ensure they are designing their programs to meet the changing needs of their workforce," said Robert Kennedy, senior vice president, Fidelity Workplace Consulting. "Implementing programs that take a total well-being approach, designing programs for a global workforce and aligning well-being programs with the company’s health care strategy are just a few of the steps employers can take to ensure their well-being program continues to deliver maximum benefit to their organization."

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