Wellness Programs Lower Costs For Workers With Chronic Conditions

Wellness programs can lower health care costs for workers with chronic conditions, but components of the programs that encourage workers to adopt healthier lifestyles may not reduce health costs or lead to lower net savings, according to recent research from the nonprofit RAND Corporation. The study is based on a seven-year examination of a PepsiCo’s Health Living wellness program, which includes numerous components, including health risk assessments, on-site wellness events, lifestyle management, disease management, complex care management, and a nurse advice phone line. The study evaluated the experiences of more than 67,000 workers who were eligible for the disease management or lifestyle management programs.

RAND found that efforts to help employees manage chronic illnesses saved $3.78 in health care costs for every $1 invested in the effort. However, the program’s lifestyle management components that encourage healthy living did not deliver returns that were higher than the costs.

“The PepsiCo program provides a substantial return for the investment made in helping employees manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease,” said Soeren Mattke, senior natural scientist at RAND. “But the lifestyle management component of the program—while delivering benefits—did not provide more savings than it cost to offer.”

The study also found that the disease management program reduced costs among participants by $136 per member per month, or $1,632 annually, driven by a 29 percent drop in hospital admissions. Among people who participated in both the disease management and lifestyle management programs, the savings were $160 per month with a 66 percent drop in hospital admissions. In addition, individuals who participated in the lifestyle management program reported a small reduction in absenteeism, but there was no significant effect on health care costs.

The results of the study are published in the January edition of Health Affairs. For more information, visit http://www.rand.org/news/press/2014/01/06/index1.html.

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