Trade Association Urges Passage Of Act Providing Employers With Certainty For Wellness Strategies

Employer sponsorship of wellness programs depends on continued congressional support, representatives of the American Benefits Council (the Council) recently told the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections. The Council expressed support for the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (H.R. 1189), introduced by Education and the Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN) and cosponsored by Workforce Protections Subcommittee Chairman Tim Walberg (R-MI) and Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Chairman Phil Roe (R-TN).

H.R. 1189 provides, in part, that plans compliant with the wellness provisions of HIPAA that were amended by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) (included in Sec. 2705(j) of the Public Health Service Act) shall not violate the ADA or GINA by offering rewards in compliance with PHSA Sec. 2705(j). In general, this protection extends to health contingent wellness programs, including activity-only and outcome-based programs.

Tamara M. Simon, managing firector of the Knowledge Resource Center and Career Practice at Buck Consultants, testifying on behalf of the Council, stated that “The prospect of a healthier workforce has compelled a growing number of companies to develop and implement wellness strategies. However, existing federal guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is not clear regarding what constitutes a voluntary wellness program. The Council believes that H.R. 1189 strikes the right balance between providing certainty to employers and ensuring an appropriate role for the EEOC to protect employees from discrimination.” She added, “Public policy, at the legislative and regulatory level, should continue to support bipartisan efforts to expand workplace wellness programs.”

Katy Spangler, the Council’s senior vice president, health policy, underscored the importance of a coordinated policy approach that supports the bipartisan provisions of the ACA encouraging the adoption of employee wellness programs.

“Wellness strategies hold enormous promise for improving employee well-being, increasing productivity and lowering long-term health costs,” Spangler said. “If we are to achieve these goals, we must first have sensible and consistent federal rules.”

As Simon concluded, “Employer-sponsored benefit plans are now being designed with the express purpose of giving each worker the opportunity to achieve personal health and financial well-being. This well-being drives employee performance and productivity, which drives successful organizations. The employer community appreciates the Committee’s recognition of the importance of wellness programs to that equation.”

Visit our News Library to read more news stories.