Would you take a health risk questionnaire or go for blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol screenings if it meant you could save on your health insurance?

Employers hope so.

According to a new survey by Aon Hewitt of nearly 800 large and mid-size U.S. companies, 83 percent offer their employees incentives for participating in programs that help them become more aware of their health status.

The survey found that of them:

  • 79 percent offer incentives in the form of a reward;
  • 5 percent offer incentives in the form of a consequence;
  • And 16 percent offer a mix of rewards and consequences.

The idea of the incentives and consequences is to engage employees in improving their health and therefore reduce their health care and thus health insurance costs.

Employers recognize importance of workers knowing their health risks

"Employers recognize the first step in getting people on a path to good health is providing employees and their families with the opportunity to become informed and educated about their health risks and the modifiable behaviors that cause those risks," said Jim Winkler, chief innovation officer for Health & Benefits at Aon Hewitt, in a press release about the survey. "Health risk questionnaires and biometric screenings are the key tools in providing that important information and serve as the foundation that links behaviors to action. Motivating people to participate through the use of incentives is the best practice in the industry and these strategies will continue to be a critical part of employers' health care strategies in the future."

A separate survey that Aon Hewitt conducted in partnership with the National Business Group on Health and The Futures Company found that four out of five (86 percent) of people took further steps after learning the results of their screenings. And nearly two-thirds (65 percent) followed through and adopted at least one lifestyle improvement as a result.

More than half of the employers surveyed also said they felt as though the incentives had other benefits including boosting employee morale, satisfaction and attitudes. More than 40 percent also reported seeing changes in health risks.

Employers tying incentives to sustainable behavior

The survey also found that a growing number of employers are linking incentives to sustainable actions. Of the companies that offer incentives, 56 percent require their employees to actively participate in health programs and comply with their medications or participate in activities such as health coaching. About a quarter (24 percent) also offer incentives for making progress toward or attaining healthy numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index, and blood sugar.

More than two-thirds of employers who aren't offering incentives or wellness programs yet say they expect to in the near future.

While the Aon Hewitt survey found incentives improve workforce health, a report by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement said that there isn't enough data yet to know whether incentives and wellness programs have a worthy return on investment.