News & Information



5500 Preparer's Manual for 2012 Plan Years

5500 Preparer's Manual for 2012 Plan Years
The premier resource in the field of Form 5500 preparation, 5500 Preparer's Manual will help you handle the required annual Form 5500 filings for both pension benefits and welfare benefit plans.

CCH® BENEFITS — 4/24/08

Employers Promote Wellness Programs To Skeptical Employees

From Spencer's Benefits Reports: Although many more employers are planning a more direct role in managing employees’ health, employees are not so sure that they want their employers more involved, according to recent research from Hewitt Associates. In addition, some legal experts urge restraint in wellness program implementation.

The Hewitt survey of 500 employers found that 88%, an increase from 63% in 2007, planned to invest in wellness programs to improve employee health and productivity in the next three to five years. According to a separate Hewitt survey of 30,000 employees, nearly three-fourths (74%) think that employers are responsible for helping them understand how to use their health care plan, but only 12% believe that companies have a role in helping them understand how to stay healthy.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of employers currently rely on cost shifting to employees, but only 17% plan to make it a priority in 2008, Hewitt found. Furthermore, consumer-driven, high-deductible health plans have not become a major cost-management strategy—one-fifth of employers offer account-based plans (health reimbursement arrangements or health savings accounts) and fewer than 6% planned to adopt one in 2008. Interest has expanded in value-based health benefit design, which reduces or removes financial barriers to health care services that are proven effective for certain medical conditions; 12% of companies have implemented a value-based design and another 52% were considering implementing one.

Furthermore, although most employees (80%) took the health risk assessment offered by their employers, a significant number (40%) did not act on the specific recommendations resulting from the assessment, according to Hewitt. This is not a good result for employers, especially since more than half of employees or dependents suffer from a chronic health condition, Hewitt noted.

Employees acknowledge that, ultimately, healthy behaviors can save them money, but many still pursue unhealthy behaviors—88% claim that they engage in healthy behaviors, but fewer than half claim that they eat right or exercise regularly (47% and 40%, respectively), and only 40% claim that they are effective at seeking advice on remaining healthy.

In addition, many employees admit that health care cost influences their health behaviors. Financial concerns led nearly one-third (30%) to avoid a doctor’s office visit when they were sick, 27% failed to fill a prescription, and 18% stopped taking their medications before their prescription ran out.

Furthermore, while employers might find it useful initially to rely on incentives or penalties to encourage employees to participate in their wellness programs, employers must think more about long-term ways to motivate and engage employees in managing their own health, Hewitt emphasized. To do this, employers need to examine their corporate culture and employee motivators and focus on health issues that are particularly relevant to their own work forces.

Ninety-three percent of companies have identified the chronic health conditions that affect their employee populations and plan to target these conditions over the next three to five years. Half of the companies already either provide or plan to provide health and productivity management programs tailored to member risk levels, and another half plan to offer enhanced medical and/or prescription drug benefits for at least one or more chronic conditions.

Significant Resources Planned

More than 85% of companies currently invest or plan to invest “significant resources in long-term health and productivity initiatives over the next three to five years,” Hewitt found. Nearly two-thirds (63%) planned to offer incentives to motivate sustained health care behavior change, and 67% planned to design their organization’s health care strategy based on health care data and measurements.

Employers also must make their benefits portals easier to use by, for example, not requiring sign-in into health care plan-related Web sites to find general information such as participating doctors.

“With complex global economics, legislative uncertainty, and increasing health care cost and health care risk, health and productivity has gone from being viewed by employers as a cost that needs to be managed to a critical business investment,” said Jim Winkler, leader of Hewitt’s health management consulting practice. “As a result, companies are moving beyond their traditional role as a provider of health care benefits to develop holistic programs that pinpoint the specific health needs of their employee populations, drive employee behavior change, and eliminate barriers to health care.

“But to ensure these steps translate into strategic business advantage, employers need to overcome employees’ skepticism about their intended role. Their messages need to shift from a cost-management focus to one that helps employees understand how improving their health can benefit them, as well as the company.”

For more information on this and related topics, consult the CCH Pension Plan Guide, CCH Employee Benefits Management, and Spencer's Benefits Reports.

Visit our News Library to read more news stories.