Does Targeting Higher Health Risk Employees or Increasing Intervention Intensity Yield Savings in a Workplace Wellness Program?

Published in: Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, v. 57, no. 12, Dec. 2015, p. 1257-1261

Posted on RAND.org on January 05, 2016

by Kandice A. Kapinos, John P. Caloyeras, Harry H. Liu, Soeren Mattke

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OBJECTIVE: This article aims to test whether a workplace wellness program reduces health care cost for higher risk employees or employees with greater participation. METHODS: The program effect on costs was estimated using a generalized linear model with a log-link function using a difference-in-difference framework with a propensity score matched sample of employees using claims and program data from a large US firm from 2003 to 2011. RESULTS: The program targeting higher risk employees did not yield cost savings. Employees participating in five or more sessions aimed at encouraging more healthful living had about $20 lower per member per month costs relative to matched comparisons (P = 0.002). CONCLUSIONS: Our results add to the growing evidence base that workplace wellness programs aimed at primary prevention do not reduce health care cost, with the exception of those employees who choose to participate more actively.

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