What’s less clear is what we should do. Experts are conflicted on the types of health benefits employers should offer, and there’s debate on whether wellness programs are effective in the first place. Some even argue that workplace initiatives do more harm than good by shifting healthcare costs to vulnerable employee groups; instigating unneeded treatments; and causing undue panic about job security.
We saw a wellness initiative backfire last year in West Virginia, when a teacher’s strike erupted partially because a new program penalized those who failed to get enough steps, sleep, or exercise with a $500 deductible hike. The state soon abandoned the program.
But there have also been huge success stories: Paul Terpeluk, medical director of employee-health services at Cleveland Clinic, told the Wall Street Journal that he only started to see results three years into the clinic’s wellness program. But since launch in 2009, Terpeluk says the program has saved the company $668 million and seen a decrease in sick leave, with no loss to employee benefits.