Claims of Wellness Cost Savings Are Overblown


(CFO Magazine)

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by Soeren Mattke

June 3, 2015

Workplace wellness has become a $6 billion industry in the United States, as employers hope these programs can help control health-care costs. In 2012, half of all employers with at least 50 employees offered programs, and nearly half of employers without a program said they intended to introduce one.

The consumer and business media, and even normally skeptical academics, strongly endorse workplace wellness programs as a good investment for employers. For example, a 2010 review by a Harvard economist stated that wellness programs returned three dollars in health-care savings and three dollars in reduced absenteeism costs for every dollar invested.

But our research tells a different story. The RAND Wellness Programs Study, which included almost 600,000 employees at seven employers, showed that wellness programs are having little if any effect on health-care costs....

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Soeren Mattke is a senior scientist at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization.

This commentary originally appeared on CFO Magazine on June 3, 2015. Commentary gives RAND researchers a platform to convey insights based on their professional expertise and often on their peer-reviewed research and analysis.