Let Employers Show Employees The Money For Getting Healthy, Group Urges Congress

Congress should support the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (S. 620). That’s according to the HR Policy Association, which recently sent a letter to Senate Health, Labor, Employment and Pension Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and House Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). The Act would reaffirm the wellness program incentives under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) that allow employee wellness programs to have financial incentives up to 30 percent of the cost of coverage and up to 50 percent for tobacco cessation programs.

“It is important for Congress to eliminate the legal confusion surrounding wellness program financial incentives that has been caused by the recent legal actions taken by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and restore certainty for employers who want to reward their employees for leading healthy lifestyles. We urge members of Congress to pass this legislation this year,” said HR Policy Association President and General Counsel, Daniel V. Yager.

The letter explains that employers are increasingly offering wellness programs as a means to improve employee health and productivity, bolster employee engagement and reduce health care costs, and the ACA strongly promotes such programs by permitting financial incentives for participation in them. Yet in 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission began filing legal actions against employers with wellness programs its General Counsel views as violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) without providing any guidance to employers.

Moreover, White House spokesperson Josh Earnest referred to one lawsuit as “inconsistent with what we know about wellness programs and the fact that we know that wellness programs are good for both employers and employees.” With more and more employers offering wellness programs, it is essential that Congress act to clear up any legal uncertainty by reaffirming existing law, including the application of ERISA preemption of state and local laws to employer wellness programs, the letter states.

The HR Policy Association supports the provision in the legislation that reaffirms the ADA’s existing bona fide benefit plan safe harbor for wellness programs and strongly encourages the Senate to add a provision reaffirming that the existing ERISA preemption applies to wellness programs as well.

“We hope Congress does not to miss this opportunity to address a serious problem with the ACA, and we look forward to working with lawmakers to enact this important legislation,” said Yager.

For more information, visit http://www.hrpolicy.org/downloads/2015/15-19_Letters_re_Wellness_Bill.pdf.

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