fatty.jpgFor years, employers have been trying to get workers on the healthy bandwagon. But you guys haven’t been cooperating.

You’re still smoking. You’re still sitting on the couch and eating Yodels. And as a result, managers are taking out the big guns.

If you’ve gotten incentives from your company just for signing up for a wellness program or for taking a health assessment, expect it to get harder to pocket such financial inducements, according to a survey by Towers Watson, a global professional services company, and business organization, the National Business Group on Health.

Smokers actually have to stop smoking. Overweight and obese workers actually have to start shedding pounds.

“Employers are frustrated by their employees’ low use of expensive health improvement programs,” said Ted Nussbaum, senior consultant at Towers Watson. “As employers continue to empower workers to be more health focused, they are beginning to target and reward those workers who demonstrate a real commitment to making positive lifestyle changes.”

The survey found:

* 53 percent of large employers offer financial incentives to workers who enroll in health engagement activities, such as weight management or smoking cessation programs. But, for many employers, participation alone is no longer enough to earn an incentive.
* Now, more than one-third of employers (37%) reward only those workers who meet the company’s requirements for completion of a health engagement activity, and almost one-third (29%) only reward members who participate in multiple activities.
* Still, most employers (93%) have no plans to eliminate their health promotion programs, and 83% have no plans to cancel or delay adding new ones.

The idea of offering incentives to employees in the first place has always struck me as an actual penalty against workers managers consider to be unhealthy. Indeed, employers walk a fine legal line when crafting such programs.

But for the most part, the government gave companies the green light on this in 2007.

One caveat: If you feel you’re being singled out for unhealthiness, but you have an underlying illness or disability that may be contributing to your weight gain, or high blood pressure, etc., you may have some protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

For the rest of us, however, we all may have to live with these types of intrusive programs whether we like it or not. And they are going to get even more intense in the years ahead.

“Employers and their workers face a challenging road ahead together,” said Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. “Those companies most effective at empowering their workers to be engaged consumers of care will find greater success at keeping costs low and likely be rewarded with a healthier, more productive workforce — an effort that has never been more important than it is right now.”

yodel.jpg(And by the way, Yodels are a cylindrical, chocolate cake and cream treat I grew up eating.)

Fat guy on a treadmill illustration credit: Duane Hoffmann / msnbc.com

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