BOSTON–Fidelity Investments(R), a leading service provider of employer benefits, in conjunction with the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), released a study1 today that found financial incentives have taken on greater importance in the drive to increase employee participation in health improvement programs. The survey, which looked at the behaviors and offerings of 147 mid- to large-size companies in various industries nationwide, is a follow-up to research Fidelity(R) and NBGH conducted in 2009.

According to the study, employers utilized several different types of incentives in 2010 to encourage employees to participate in health improvement programs. These included offering cash and gift cards and making additional contributions to health savings accounts, along with more punitive efforts such as reducing employer contributions to health plans if employees didn't engage in any programs. The incentives provided by employers averaged a total of $430 per employee in 2010, which was a 65% increase from $260 in 2009.

Half of all companies that provided such incentives in 2010 also offered them to dependents of employees, at an average value of $420. A small number of companies (12%) utilized negative incentives to encourage participation (reducing employer contributions to health plans for those not participating). More employers (62%) offered incentives last year than in 2009 (57%).

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