Wellness programs can reduce costs, but those with low income and those in poor health are less likely to enroll

A study of German wellness programs has found that while implementing wellness programs can reduce healthcare costs for those who participate, low income groups and those with “poor” health status are less likely to enroll, according to a study in the Commonwealth Fund.

As the U.S is increasingly looking to wellness programs to help reduce healthcare costs, the Commonwealth Fund examined findings from Germany, where public insurers offer many such programs. 

Key findings from the study include:

  • Those who participated in wellness programs spent on average $143 U.S. fewer dollars per member per year than those who did not. 
  • Over­all participation in wellness programs in Germany nearly doubled between 2004 and 2008, to one-quarter of the insured population.
  • Although overall participatino rose between 2004 – 2008, the rates of enrollment for those with low income and those who reported “poor” health status were unchanged, which makes these groups the least likely to participate in wellness programs in 2008.

The authors state that while these programs appear to offer cost savings in healthcare, they should be evaluated to ensure that they include those with low income and poor health status.

(Source: The Commonwealth Fund, http://www.commonwealthfund.org, June 2012)