Implementing and expanding employer wellness programs may offer our nation the opportunity to not only improve the health of Americans, but also help control health care spending.
The Affordable Care Act creates new incentives and builds on existing wellness program policies to promote employer wellness programs and encourage opportunities to support healthier workplaces. The Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor and the Treasury are jointly releasing proposed rules on wellness programs to reflect the changes to existing wellness provisions made by the Affordable Care Act and to encourage appropriately designed, consumer-protective wellness programs in group health coverage. These proposed rules would be effective for plan years starting on or after January 1, 2014.
The proposed rules continue to support workplace wellness programs, including “participatory wellness programs” which generally are available without regard to an individual’s health status. These include, for example, programs that reimburse for the cost of membership in a fitness center; or that provides a reward who complete a health risk assessment without requiring them to take further action.
The rules also outline amended standards for nondiscriminatory “health-contingent wellness programs,” which generally require individuals to meet a specific standard related to their health to obtain a reward. Examples of health-contingent wellness programs include programs that provide a reward to those who do not use, or decrease their use of, tobacco, or programs that provide a reward to those who achieve a specified cholesterol level or weight as well as those who fail to meet that biometric target but take certain additional required actions.
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