Stay well! Get paid! It’s a trend among companies seeking to lower their employee health benefits costs and hike the bottom line.A survey by the National Business Group on Health finds 54 percent of employers this year are offering better health incentives to their staff. Some offer health insurance premium discounts, sometimes it is cash. Going the other way, some companies stick employees with a premium increase for ignoring healthy behavior. The use of penalties more than doubled from 2009 to 2011, rising from 8% to 19%, and is expected to double again by 2012 when over a third (38%) of respondents plan to have penalties in place.

“Employers today view health and productivity programs as integral to their overall health benefit strategy and efforts to control health care cost inflation,” said Shelly Wolff, senior health care consultant at Towers Watson. “As companies strive to maximize employee participation in these programs, they are opting for both rewards and penalties. And many are finding these approaches are producing significant results.”

The group’s LuAnn Heinen says it really is a, “win-win” for employers and employees. Heinen says many companies find healthier workers take less sick days, are less of a drag on the caompany health insurance system and contribute to productivty, and the companies bottom line.