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Among the nation’s largest employers, wellness programs are expected to double this year according to Towers Watson.  The programs often use financial incentives and penalties to encourage workers to get healthy.  

Many healthcare observers say there is little evidence that this $6 billion worker wellness industry does much to improve health or save money.

So why are employers flocking to something with little reliable data?

“We suspect that companies are making money on them, otherwise they wouldn’t make plans to increase the program,” says Jill Horwitz, a UCLA law professor.

The challenge, Horwitz says, is to identify those employees who would benefit from help addressing their health problems.

In the meantime, several lawsuits are challenging the legality of wellness programs as financial penalties against workers are climbing.

Follow Dan Gorenstein at @dmgorenstein