– GrowingFocus on Employee Health and Wellness –

 After decades of focusing on health coverage as the exclusive avenue of providing financial protection against medical costs, employers are starting to shift to a focus on wellness and prevention. With health care cost inflation outpacing national inflation, employers are looking to newer strategies to drive a healthier workforce.  According to MetLife’s 5th Annual Employee Benefits Trend Study, more than one-fourth (28%) of all employers – and nearly half (49%) of companies with 500 or more employees  offer some type of a wellness program as a workplace benefit, and 43% of employers believe that these programs are highly valued by their employees.

Additionally, the study reveals that 17% of employers offer health insurance credits for employees following wellness guidelines such as exercise, nutrition, check-ups, and disease screenings.  Nearly one-third of employers with 500 or more employees (31%) are offering these wellness credits – up from 25% a year before.  On the other hand,  one-in-ten employers (9%) and one-in-five (19%) of employers with 500 or more employees say they impose financial penalties on employees for not following wellness guides.

“Wellness and prevention programs can benefit both employees and employers.  Healthy employees can be more productive and help curb the medical and disability costs of a working population.  In turn, employees’ health impacts their wealth. Taking active steps to improve one’s health can help mitigate circumstances that can affect a person’s financial safety net and premature withdrawal of savings,”saysRonald Leopold, M.D., vice president, Employer Sponsored Benefits, MetLife.

Because Americans are living longer, there is a greater focus on wellness and prevention earlier in life. Taking care of oneself during the working years is an excellent way to mitigate future medical costs.

“Various other tools, such as financial protection products, can work side-by-side with prevention and wellness initiatives to protect our fiscal futures and offer peace of mind now and through retirement.  This is how an employer can really deliver on the new culture of health and financial security,” Dr. Leopold adds.

Other interesting findings from the MetLife study:  

  • 35% of employers fund employee assistance programs, up from 25% the prior year.  For companies with 500 or more employees this number has grown from 46% in 2005 to 58% in 2006.
  • 17% of employers  and 34% of employers with 500 or more employees  offer targeted prevention programs. 
  • 14% of employers  and 28% of employers with 500 or more employees  provide onsite clinics.
  • 15% of employers  and 29% of employers with 500 or more employees  offer health care advocacy.

Study Methodology

The 5th annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends was conducted during the third quarter of 2006 and consisted of two distinct studies fielded by GfK NOP.  The employee survey polled 1,202 full-time employees, age 21 and older, including a mix of men and women drawn from a diverse pool of ethnic backgrounds, at companies with at least two employees.  The employer survey consisted of 1,514 interviews with benefits decision-makers at companies with a minimum of two employees, representing a mix of industries and geographic regions.

MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. Through its domestic and international subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force).  The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance, reinsurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions.  For more information, please visit www.metlife.com


Karen Eldred
Joseph Madden