Overview: 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:
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
The IRS has released a Chief Counsel Advice Memorandum discussing the tax treatment of wellness program benefits and employer reimbursement of premiums provided on a pretax basis under a § 125 cafeteria plan (under the Internal Revenue Code - IRC).
Updated to reflect EEOC final rules on wellness programs, the ADA and GINA.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued final rules on employer wellness programs, which address employee protections under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
Updated to reflect information on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's maximum annual limitation on cost sharing.
Texas employers with employee wellness programs are protected from civil liability under a new law that takes effect September 1, 2015.
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.
This resource is under review in light of the EEOC final rules on wellness programs, the ADA and GINA, which were issued on May 17, 2016.
HR guidance on workplace wellness programs and the impact to health care costs.