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
Updated to reflect new guidance on an individual's right to access his or her own protected health information.
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.
An employer should use this waiver when it offers employees the opportunity to participate in voluntary wellness program activities.
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.
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).
The EEOC has filed a second lawsuit claiming an employer's wellness program violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The EEOC filed its first lawsuit directly challenging an employer's wellness program under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
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.
HR guidance on workplace wellness programs and the impact to health care costs.