Congressional subcommittee holds hearing on how to promote a healthy workforce

Innovations employers are using to control costs and provide higher quality coverage to their employees were the topics of a hearing conducted recently by the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, as part of ongoing work by the Task Force on Health Care Reform. According to Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Phil Roe (R-TN), “…employers of all sizes are still developing creative strategies to help control costs and meeting the changing needs of the workforce.”

Both wellness and private health care exchanges were held up as positive forces employers can use to both foster a healthy work force and address rising health care costs. At the hearing, Roe stated that he wants the power of new technology to result in better treatment for patients.

Wellness programs. Amy McDonough, vice president and general manager of Corporate Wellness and Fitbit, advised that “Employers are uniquely positioned to improve health in the workplace by fostering wellness initiatives that are inclusive, fun, voluntary, and protect the privacy of the people they aim to serve. When workplaces make the healthy choice the easy choice, health outcomes can be even more profound.”

McDonough criticized government regulations that she said make it more difficult for employers to adopt wellness programs. “Unfortunately, the regulations governing wellness programs are not always clear and this confusion has left some employers on the sidelines. We at Fitbit are supportive of efforts to clarify and streamline the applicable laws and regulations that govern the structure of wellness program,” she added.

Private exchanges. John Zern, an expert on healthcare benefits and innovation, described a private exchange as “a competitive, retail-based, web-enabled marketplace offering employer-sponsored group coverage.” According to Tresia Franklin, director of Rewards and Employee Relations at Hallmark cards, a private exchange model “provides employers an innovative and effective model for meeting the health care needs of their workforce.”

SOURCE: Education and the Workforce Committee press release, April 15, 2016.

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