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Why Employers Care

Financial incentives to promote healthy lifestyles have become a key component of wellness program and health benefits design. Research shows incentives improve participation in one-time, simple tasks such as participating in health assessments (HA) or biometric screenings. HA completion rates are often less than 20% in the absence of incentives, but can approach 100% with them. Similarly, average participation in biometric screenings is 45% with incentives, but only 25% without. However, incentives for participation in programs such as smoking cessation and disease management may have limited returns and the impact of incentives to promote more complex behavior change (e.g., smoking cessation, weight loss) is less certain. Recent research suggests that when an incentive is tied to the outcome desired, results have been positive.

What Can Employers Do?

Employers are encouraged to use incentives to drive engagement in wellness programs and healthy lifestyles. The 2013/2014 Staying@Work™ Survey shows that 80% of employers are using rewards for program participation and 36% are using penalties for non-completion. More employers are designing incentives for meeting a specific health outcome. In 2014, 49% of employers will offer incentives for achieving a specific health outcome and 19% will provide incentives for progress toward specific health outcomes.

To help employers navigate the use of incentives, the National Business Group on Health created the Financial Incentives for Healthy Lifestyles toolkit. The toolkit provides the latest evidence for incentives, examples of current employers' incentive programs and regulatory guidance.

Page last updated: August 14, 2015

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