Are Expectations for Employee Wellness Programs Set Too High?

Weights and Tape Measurer

The costs for medical insurance and health care services continue to rise, causing American businesses to reevaluate their budget priorities and look for ways to keep expenses in line. As a result, employee wellness programs are growing in popularity, becoming a viable solution for employers to accomplish several goals, including:


  • Helping employees stay healthy so health care expenses are lower
  • Increasing employee productivity because healthy employees are usually happy employees
  • Keeping health care expenses within an acceptable budget range

Although most businesses introduce wellness programs initially with low expectations for employee participation and lifestyle changes, they quickly ramp up their goals. A recent article published in the Des Moines Register, “Higher Insurance Costs Loom for Employees Who Fail to Meet Health Goal,” proclaims that “companies desperate to cut the cost of health insurance are moving toward rewarding and punishing employees based on how healthy they are, or whether they meet wellness goals. That’s a shift from rewarding employees for participating in wellness programs.

Let us know what you think. Should employers set higher expectations for employees to demonstrate continual improvements toward healthier lifestyles? Are there legal implications of employers paying employees to lose weight or stop smoking, and punishing those who do not meet similar goals? How should employers respond if individuals have genetic issues that create physical limitations, or medical conditions that impede achievement of wellness goals?