RAND: Workplace Wellness Programs Don’t Work

Is this another scandal? Reuters is reporting on a study the administration has been keeping under wraps since last fall. (Before the election???)

The report found, for instance, that people who participate in such programs lose an average of only one pound a year for three years.

In addition, participation “was not associated with significant reductions in total cholesterol level.” And while there is some evidence that smoking-cessation programs work, they do so only “in the short term.”

…More surprisingly, workplace wellness did not catch warning signs of disease or improve health enough to prevent emergencies. “We do not detect statistically significant decreases in cost and use of emergency department and hospital care” as a result of the programs, RAND found…

Workplace wellness is a $6 billion industry in the United States, with an estimated 500 vendors now selling the programs. Fifty-one percent of employers with 50 or more workers offer one, the RAND report found. Medium-to-large companies now spend an average of $521 per employee per year on wellness incentives (gift cards for losing weight, for instance), double the $260 in 2009, according to a survey by Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health released in February….

The RAND report was mandated by the Affordable Care Act, the healthcare reform law known as ObamaCare. Two sources close to the report expected it to be released publicly this past winter. Reuters read the report when it was briefly posted online by RAND on Friday before being taken down because the federal agencies were not ready to release it, said a third source with knowledge of the analysis. (Reuters)

Comments (10)

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  1. Studebaker says:

    I’ve always suspected that the only way corporate Wellness programs can actually work is by running off the unfit employees.

    Really, the entire concept is a fiction. Unfit people tend to jack up health costs later in life when they reach Medicare age. Employees also leave for greener pastures. It’s pretty hard to invest in a whole population of workers and save more than you invest in them.

  2. Bruce says:

    Not surprised at this.

  3. Josh says:

    Full body “wellness” comes from personal motivation. No one can make another person work out or “want” to be healthy.

  4. Sam says:

    Wouldn’t we also need to be focusing on the quality of the program?

  5. Tim says:

    I think that fundamentally there is a strong stance for wellness programs, but as Sam mentions, quality programs would be more effective than many current programs out there that don’t produce direct results.

  6. Ron says:

    I agree with Sam and Tim on this one. There is something to be said about people being more productive due to incentives and their environment. Since people spend most of their time at work, then producing an “healthier” environment at work will motivate to be proactive and healthier than the alternative. The focus should be on cost-effective and efficient programs, not whether these programs are a total waste of money or not.

  7. Tracy says:

    It seems like work wellness programs are choices made by businesses. How does Obama care impact them? And why would they suppress the report?

  8. Tracy says:


    “The White House is currently reviewing a proposed rule for wellness programs that give workers incentives to take part in healthy habits such as joining a gym, signing up for a weight-loss plan or participating in a scheme to stop smoking. The proposal is part of the Affordable Care Act. ”


  9. Richard G says:

    I don’t think this will be a scandal, but it is interesting.

  10. CarolT says:

    Everybody is missing the point. The real purpose of wellness programs is to tyrannize the workers’ lives, and impose a compulsory state religion based on quackery, fraud and charlatanism on everybody. This is exactly the kind of garbage that the government is supposed to be protecting us against! See how they’ve brainwashed all the sheep to automatically presume that the only thing that matters is whether they “work” or not – not whether they should exist in the first place.