With health care costs increasing, employers are offering incentives to employees who take better care of themselves. The incentives can be rewards for exercising or participating in health screenings. Points are earned in the incentives programs and they can be used to buy everything from electronics to clothes.
A survey taken last month of 800 large and mid-sized companies found that 83 percent offer incentives for participating in programs that promote healthy lifestyle choices. Almost two-thirds of the companies offer monetary incentives of between $50 and $ 500!
At Viva Health, a Birmingham area health insurance company, such programs have been in place for a while. One of their programs involves giving employees “chips” for taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Every month an employee could earn up to $13.90 by just taking the stairs at least twice every work day. One Viva Health Employee cashed in some of her chips to get her daughter a new iPod Touch 5.
The stair climbing program was the subject of a study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The study found that over six months the flights of stairs that 216 employees climbed increased from 5,070 to 38,900. The average number of flights climbed per day went up from 39 to 301.
One company, ChipRewards, works with companies across the country to develop and implement incentive programs in the workplace. The stair climbing program is tracked through key cards which each employee has to get in the stairwell. The key to the program’s successful is the ability to track the behavior. What’s even more interesting is the fact that most people use their chips to buy things for other people.
These types of health incentive programs are likely to become more prevalent as parts of the federal Affordable Care Act law kicks in. Starting in 2014, employers will be able to use up to 30 percent of a worker’s heath care premiums on incentive programs.