HR Support on Wellness & Prevention Programs

Editor's Note: Employers use wellness initiatives to reduce health care costs.

Tracy MorleyOverview: Employers use wellness programs to supplement their employee benefit programs in an effort to prevent illness and lower health care costs by motivating employees to adopt and maintain healthful behaviors. Studies have shown that employers can benefit by implementing and maintaining an employee wellness program. Over time, benefits reported by employers include reduced health care related costs, increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, higher morale and increased employee retention.

The type of wellness program offered depends on a variety of factors including an employer's size, culture, resources and industry. Some programs are simple and inexpensive to implement and manage, while others are more complex and require substantial financial resources.

Most wellness programs are aimed at combating preventable conditions such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and lung cancer. There are many types of wellness programs an employer can choose based on budget, employee demographics, location and health goals. Common examples include:

  • Weight loss programs;
  • Tobacco cessation programs;
  • Free flu shots;
  • Health risk assessments and screenings; and
  • Exercise competitions.

Employer wellness programs must comply with a variety of federal and state laws. At the federal level, wellness plans have to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

Trends: Affordable Care Act provisions that apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2014, expand an employer's ability to reward employees for participating in wellness programs.

Tracy Morley, SPHR, Legal Editor

Latest items in Wellness and Prevention Programs

  • Health Information and Privacy (HIPAA)

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    This section helps HR professionals understand HIPAA's complex requirements related to medical privacy, nondiscrimination, protected health information and breach notification rules.

  • EEOC Issues Proposed Rules on Wellness Programs

    Date:
    20 April 2015
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that elaborates on how Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to employer wellness programs. The EEOC invites employers and other interested parties to submit comments on the proposed rules.

  • Employee Wellness Program Waiver Form

    Type:
    Policies and Documents

    An employer should use this waiver when it offers employees the opportunity to participate in voluntary wellness program activities.

  • EEOC Proposed Rules on ADA, ACA and Wellness Programs in the Works

    Date:
    31 March 2015
    Type:
    News

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) voted on March 20 to send a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the interplay of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with respect to employer-sponsored wellness programs to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval.

  • Honeywell's Wellness Program Violates ADA, GINA, EEOC Claims

    Date:
    05 November 2014
    Type:
    News

    The EEOC lost its bid to temporarily stop Honeywell International from imposing surcharges on employees who refuse to submit to biometric testing as part of its wellness program, which the EEOC claims violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

  • EEOC Files Another Challenge of Employer Wellness Program Under ADA

    Date:
    08 October 2014
    Type:
    News

    The EEOC has filed a second lawsuit claiming an employer's wellness program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  • EEOC Files First ADA Challenge of Employer's Wellness Program

    Date:
    29 August 2014
    Type:
    News

    The EEOC filed its first lawsuit directly challenging an employer's wellness program under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

  • Managing Health Care Costs

    Type:
    Employment Law Manual

    This section helps HR professionals understand strategies they can use to reduce health care costs, including cost-sharing, implementing disease management and wellness programs and conducting dependent eligibility verification audits.

  • Employee Wellness

    Date:
    28 February 2014
    Type:
    Editor's Choice

    Employee wellness programs are typically used to prevent illness by motivating employees to adopt and maintain healthful behaviors. An employer creating or managing an employee wellness program has many legal and internal considerations to take into account such as what the program will include and how laws such as the ADA and ACA will affect the program.

  • New DOL FAQs Clarify Affordable Care Act and Mental Health Parity Implementation

    Date:
    16 January 2014
    Type:
    News

    The US Department of Labor (DOL) has issued frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the implementation of the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA).

About this topic

HR guidance on workplace wellness programs and the impact to health care costs.