Originally posted February 20, 2014 by Michael Giardina on??http://ebn.benefitnews.com

With a reported 15% increase in wellness incentive spending within their health care plans, corporate employers have their sights set on improving their workforce???s overall health in 2014 through wellness programs for both employees and their significant others, according to a new survey from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health.

The fifth annual study finds that corporate employers expect to spend an average of $594 per employee on wellness-based incentives,??an increase from 2013???s $521 average. For smaller employers with less than 5,000 employees, the employee average reached $595, a $151 increase from levels reported in 2013.

Approximately 95% of employers plan to offer some sort of health improvement program, highlighting that benefit plan sponsors have labeled wellness programs as an integral part of their benefits program in this post-Affordable Care Act world. Also, 74% note that they offer incentives for employee participation, which is a 12% dip from last year.

???While the use and measurement of corporate wellness programs continue to evolve, it has become clear that many employers understand the value of ??? and are committed to ??? wellness-based incentives in their company health plan,??? says Robert Kennedy, health and welfare practice leader with Fidelity???s benefits consulting business.

The most popular programs include lifestyle management courses that focus on physical activity, weight and stress management. Disease and care management programs ??? which look to manage chronic health conditions ??? were also favored.

Doling out for spouses/HSAs

From the 2014 survey, Fidelity and NBGH found that nearly four out of 10 employers disclosed that their plan will include options for spouses or domestic partners. Last year, results highlighted that 54% set out plans to expand wellness-based incentives to include dependents and roughly half said they were including spouses and dependents in wellness communications.

Average payouts for spouse and domestic partners are expected to reach $530 in 2014. Employers with more than 20,000 employees expect to spend an average of $611 on this group.

Other incentives such as heath savings accounts and flexible spending accounts were expected to incentivize more employees use. Roughly 34% list that they plant to contribute to these accounts in order to bolster disease or care management engagement and 30% hope these deposits will add to weight management programs participation.

???Based on the feedback from this year???s survey respondents, it???s obvious that wellness programs not only play a key role in many corporate health care plans today, but they???ll continue to be an integral part of corporate benefit programs in the future,??? says Helen Darling, the??retiring president and CEO of NBGH.