“Impact of Workplace Wellness-Program Participation on Medication Adherence,” and “Differences in Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenses of Older Single and Couple Households”

January 2016, Vol. 37, No. 1
Paperback, 16 pp.
PDF, 580 kb
Employee Benefit Research Institute, 2016

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Executive Summary

Impact of Workplace Wellness-Program Participation on Medication Adherence



  • This study analyzes data from a large employer that enhanced financial incentives to encourage enrollment in its workplace wellness programs. It estimates the effect of wellness-program participation on medication adherence in six chronic conditions: hypertension, dyslipidemia, diabetes, congestive heart failure, asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and depression.

  • Biometric screenings led to an average increase in medication adherence for dyslipidemia and depression. Biometric screenings had no impact on medication adherence among individuals with hypertension, congestive heart failure, or asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases. Participation in health risk assessments (HRAs) had no statistically significant effects on medication adherence for any of the chronic conditions examined.

  • Improvements in medication adherence may signal forthcoming medical-cost offsets and productivity enhancements from biometric screenings. Whether or not these benefits exceed program costs is a research question worthy of future study using data on a greater number of wellness programs, over longer time periods.

Differences in Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenses of Older Single and Couple Households



  • The average per-person out-of-pocket spending for households ages 65 and above during a two-year period on doctor visits, dentist visits, and prescription drugs (referred to collectively as recurring health care services) is roughly $2,500 for both single and couple households. This amount does not change with age.

  • There are large differences in non-recurring health care spending (which includes overnight hospital stays, outpatient surgery, home health care, nursing home stays, and other services) between older singles and older couples, and these differences increase with age. For those 85 and above, singles and couples on average spent $13,355 and $8,530, respectively, on these services during the two-year period of the study.

  • Some of the largest differences in non-recurring health care spending between older singles and older couples are in home health care and nursing home expenses. This suggests that couples benefit from their spouses or partners acting as their caregivers.