The New Year holds much promise for Total Worker Health™. In fact, 2013 may well become the year of disease prevention and health promotion! This abundance of opportunity can be credited to the Affordable Care Act and its provisions related to wellness programs.
The provision that focuses on employer wellness programs has the most potential to directly affect the Total Worker Health™ community. This proposed rule will expand the ability of employers to reward workers who achieve health improvement goals. Beginning in 2014, the health care law will allow employers to increase incentives for participation in programs that require an employee to achieve an agreed-upon wellness goal (health-contingent wellness programs). Specifically, employers will be able to increase incentives from the currently allowable 20% to as much as 30% of an employee’s insurance costs, and in some cases as much as 50%. Examples of health-contingent wellness programs include: programs that provide a reward to those who do not use, or decrease their use of, tobacco; programs that provide a reward to those who achieve a specified cholesterol level or weight. To protect employees from unfair practices, the proposed regulations will require health-contingent wellness programs to follow rules designed for employees who need wellness-related accommodations. Employers may continue to support “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; that provide a reward to employees for attending a monthly, no-cost health education seminar; or that provides a reward to employees who complete a health risk assessment without requiring them to take further action.