The Obama Agenda: The Road to Workplace Wellness

Today’s post comes from guest author Jon Gelman from Jon Gelman, LLC – Attorney at Law.

As workers compensation programs are being diluted by soaring medical costs, The Obama Administration’s policy makers are taking a bold new step to focus on promoting wellness and disease-prevention efforts in the workplace.

Immediately following the presidential elction last November, the Department of Labor, International Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services proposed regulations to enforce workplace wellness programs under the Affordable Care Act. The proposed regulations will stimulated employer programs to invite healthier workers and may go as far as penalizing those who maintian poor diets and inadequate exercise regiems.

… regulations would increase the maximum permissible reward under a health-contingent wellness program offered in connection with a group health plan (and any related health insurance coverage) from 20 percent to 30 percent of the cost of coverage. The proposed regulations would further increase the maximum permissible reward to 50 percent for wellness programs designed to prevent or reduce tobacco use. These regulations also include other proposed clarifications regarding the reasonable design of health-contingent wellness programs and the reasonable alternatives they must offer in order to avoid prohibited discrimination.”

One analysis of the proposal concludes……

“We are cautiously optimistic about the potential of workplace-wellness programs to help contain healthcare costs and to improve the health and well-being of millions of California’s workers. Preventing illness and injury through workplace-based strategies potentially benefits employees and their families, employers, and public and private insurance providers. There is emerging evidence about the effectiveness of WWPs in improving chronic disease outcomes, and a long history of occupational health and safety practices reducing workplace injury and death. Incentives in the ACA have the potential to serve as a catalyst for expanding WWP’s broadly in California. However, policy solutions need to respond to potential unintended consequences and account for the state’s incredibly diverse communities and businesses in order to make wellness programs work for all Californians.”

Read The Greenlining Institute’s report “Helth, Equity and the Bottom line: Workplace Wellness and California Business.

Comments are due on or before January 25, 2013.