Money talks, as the expression goes, and it is certainly true within the employee benefits space. And giving employees financial incentives – including contributions to their HSA accounts – can provide a push to get those workers more actively involved.

“When you talk about wellness and incentive activities it’s really to align the financial aspects with the behavioral aspects of making better decisions about your health care,” explains John Park, Chief Strategy Officer with Alegeus Technologies.

A new study by Alegeus shows that 60% of employees are more likely to participate in workplace wellness programs with unrestricted use when provided with monetary incentives.

The need for employers to address and embrace these programs is growing. The study shows that 53% of people participate in wellness programs. “That to me is indicative of how our culture, how the country is now emphasizing the importance of wellness. It’s really an important aspect to managing the rising costs of health care – that is at an individual, employer and government level,” he explains.

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Most common wellness items include things like health risk assessments, participation in health fares, exercise programs weight loss programs and wellness challenge programs, says Park. And given that financial incentives are the most compelling way for employers to get employees to think about or change behavior, the study also shows that 72% indicate they would likely change their behavior in exchange for a financial incentive (when you include both restricted and unrestricted use).

From an employer perspective, notes Park, incentives (whether they are gift cards or money put back into HSAs, for example) can be used as a tax benefit when funds are restricted for health care purposes. “One of our largest clients uses incentive programs and aligns it with a health reimbursement arrangement that limits the use to health care expenses and so what we’ve seen is not only participation but benefit to the employer as well as the consumer with that monetary incentive.”

Park says it is not expensive to provide incentives, making wellness plans more accessible even to mid-size and smaller employers. The study says 84% of people would be willing to participate for an extra five dollars a week or $250 per year. “It doesn't take a whole lot of money to actually change those behaviors but ultimately how you design the incentive aligned with the activity is most critical,” he notes.

To support this, Alegeus also says it is partnering with Granite Peak Technologies and will leverage their technology – a platform called Hat Trick Motion. Combined with Alegeus’ engagement platform, this program will incorporate daily fitness goals, a wearable activity tracker, and financial incentives – delivered directly into consumers’ healthcare accounts such as HSAs. This, adds Park, gets participants to engage in an ongoing basis – rather than just a one off program or challenge.

Overall, notes Park, it's fairly easy for anyone to implement programs that create incentives for employees but design will be the deal breaker between getting participation and not.

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