Organizations Identify Employees' Health Habits as Top Cost Challenge: Willis Survey

Worksite Wellness Programs Resulting in Measurable Improvements

Willis Health and Productivity Survey Offers Snapshot of Today's Employer-Sponsored Health and Wellness Programs

NEW YORK, April 3, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- To combat rising health care costs, organizations are turning to targeted strategies and intervention programs that directly influence employees' individual behaviors and health habits, according to the Willis Health and Productivity Survey by Willis North America's Human Capital Practice, a unit of Willis Group Holdings plc (NYSE:WSH), the global risk advisor, insurance and reinsurance broker.

In addition, despite recent skepticism reported regarding return on investment from wellness programs - worksite initiatives that promote a healthy lifestyle -survey results revealed that nearly half (49%) of employers with wellness programs reported a measurable improvement in the firm's medical costs or an improved risk profile among its workforce.

According to the survey 61% of employer respondents identified employees' health habits as the number one challenge in controlling health care costs, beating out the cost of compliance with health care reform and the more traditional measures, such as catastrophic cases, specialty pharmacy benefits, prevention and the use of high cost medical technologies. Notably, 78% of employers with wellness programs said that they were using some sort of incentive to drive participation in employer-sponsored programs.

According to the survey 68% of respondents currently offer some type of employer-sponsored wellness program, an increase of 9% from 2013. Behavioral change and lifestyle issues, such as physical activity and nutrition continue to be the leading topics organizations are addressing through their wellness program.

The Willis Health and Productivity Survey, published today, tracks employers' strategies in delivering employer-sponsored health plans, including wellness programs. The survey represents the findings of 900 participants ranging from fewer than 100 to more than 10,000 employees.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • 61% identified employees' health habits as the number one challenge in controlling health care costs. High catastrophic cases (47%) and the cost of compliance due to health care reform (34%) ranked among the top three.
  • 78% of organizations with a wellness program said they used some sort of incentive to drive participation. The most common incentive driving employee's completion of a health assessment is a premium contribution to the medical plan to help lower employee cost.
  • Providing employees with tools and information in order to become better consumers (64%) is the number one strategy organizations say that they are using to address rising health care costs.
  • 49% of those with a wellness program reported a measurable improvement in either medical costs or risks.
  • The majority of organizations (54%) are implementing a high deductible health plan in an effort to address rising health care costs.
  • 93% believe that healthier employees are more productive, yet very few are measuring the impact on productivity of employees' absenteeism (22%), Family Medical Leave (19%) and presenteeism (7%).

Commenting on the results, Dr. Ronald S. Leopold, Willis Practice Leader in Health Outcomes said, "The results of this survey point to a fundamental shift in employee health benefits and strategies. These results suggest that the shift of costs and risks to employees is on the rise, but so is a recognition that employers benefit from helping employees and their families make better decisions about their health."

"The Willis Survey results suggest that employer organizations should focus on programs and benefit design that influences and motivates positive health behaviors," he added.

The survey was conducted between November 1, 2013 and November 22, 2013.

A full copy of the recent report can be downloaded here:

About Willis

Willis Group Holdings plc is a leading global risk advisor, insurance and reinsurance broker. With roots dating to 1828, Willis operates today on every continent with more than 18,000 employees in over 400 offices. Willis offers its clients superior expertise, teamwork, innovation and market-leading products and professional services in risk management and transfer. Our experts rank among the world's leading authorities on analytics, modelling and mitigation strategies at the intersection of global commerce and extreme events. Find more information at our Website,, our leadership journal, Resilience, or our up-to-the-minute blog on breaking news, WilllisWire. Across geographies, industries and specialisms, Willis provides its local and multinational clients with resilience for a risky world.

CONTACT: Media Colleen McCarthy +1 212 915 8307 Investors Peter Poillon +1 212 915 8084 peter.poillon@willis.comSource:Willis Group Holdings