Companies Push Workers to Get Healthy


Employees with unhealthy vices can cost companies money, so a number of businesses are offering incentives to workers who kick their bad habits. And some bosses are even threatening to take benefits away from those who won’t.

Forced Checkups

After significant increases in the cost of health care coverage for about 6,000 workers, 44% of whom were smokers, AmeriGas Propane said that unless employees got their regular medical check-ups, they’d lose their health insurance, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The employees, who were 46 years old on average, hadn’t responded to other company wellness programs that encouraged healthy habits, and had high rates of diabetes and heart disease. So the company gave them an ultimatum.

If they didn’t get their required medical exams within a year, which were paid for by their company, they’d lose their health insurance, according to The Wall Street Journal.

As a result, AmeriGas says more than 90% of its workers have had their exams, and there was a rise in the number of employees being treated for conditions like high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.

Getting Paid Not to Smoke

According to some estimates, about $97.6 billion in lost productivity is caused by smoking each year, not including lost time while smoking on the job.

More than half of employers offer smoking cessation programs, according to one survey by consulting services firm Deloitte & Touche. And like paying a kid for good grades, financial incentives to quit smoking are a fairly effective tool, according to results from a recent study published by the New England Journal of Medicine.

In the study, 436 workers received $250 to quit smoking for six months and $400 for another six months after that, while another group of 442 workers only received information about quitting. After nine and 12 months from the start of the study, three times as many paid quitters were successful than those who weren’t paid.

On the opposite end, only 24% of employers cover medical costs related to treatment of tobacco use, according to the National Business Group on Health. And some companies have even gone as far as banning smoking on company property, according to the Journal of Employee Assistance.

Incentives to Lose Weight

Financial incentives have also been somewhat effective in promoting weight loss, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and now about a third of companies offer incentives for employees to lose weight. However, whether employees can keep that weight off in the long term has yet to be determined.

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