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Does Targeting Higher Health Risk Employees or Increasing Intervention Intensity Yield Savings in a Workplace Wellness Program?

Kapinos, Kandice A. PhD; Caloyeras, John P. BA, MPMI; Liu, Hangsheng PhD; Mattke, Soeren MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2015 - Volume 57 - Issue 12 - p 1257–1261
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000570

Objective: This article aims to test whether a workplace wellness program reduces health care cost for higher risk employees or employees with greater participation.

Methods: The program effect on costs was estimated using a generalized linear model with a log-link function using a difference-in-difference framework with a propensity score matched sample of employees using claims and program data from a large US firm from 2003 to 2011.

Results: The program targeting higher risk employees did not yield cost savings. Employees participating in five or more sessions aimed at encouraging more healthful living had about $20 lower per member per month costs relative to matched comparisons (P = 0.002).

Conclusions: Our results add to the growing evidence base that workplace wellness programs aimed at primary prevention do not reduce health care cost, with the exception of those employees who choose to participate more actively.

RAND Corporation, Arlington, Virginia.

Address correspondence to: RAND Corporation, 1200 S. Hayes Street, Arlington, VA 22202 (

This work was partly supported by contract #DOLJ139335149 with the Department of Labor.

John P. Caloyeras is currently an employee and a direct shareholder of Amgen, Inc. but was not at the time the study was conducted or when analyses were performed.

The material is the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the beliefs or opinions of the Task Order Officer, EBSA, or the federal government.

Authors Kapinos, Caloyeras, Liu, and Mattke have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

Clinical Significance: Our results suggest that participation in an employer wellness program may not yield significant health care cost savings, even if targeting higher risk employees. There may be a dose–response, however, as we do find that employees more actively engaged had lower costs.

Copyright © 2015 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine