Workplace Wellness and the Affordable Care Act

wellnessWorkplace wellness programs are created to support healthy behavior in the workplace, which can improve employees’ health and lower the cost of health care spending.  A majority of workplace wellness programs focus on prevention of chronic diseases, although workplace wellness programs address a variety of conditions.  In a report by RAND and sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the most frequently target of workplace wellness programs is diabetes with 85% of the programs focusing on it.  Another half of employers with wellness programs address other conditions such as asthma, COPD, cardiac disorders, depression and cancer.

The scope of what workplace wellness programs offer varies.  Wellness programs can include individual health coaching, health lectures, webinars, fairs providing screening and educations.  Screenings, such as cancer screenings, can be key to early detection.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has created incentives to encourage employers to implement or keep existing wellness programs.  New rules under the ACA outline standards for workplace wellness programs, including rewards for employees meeting health goals.  Under these new rules, wellness programs cannot be overly burdensome to the employee and there must be reasonable alternatives for employees with medical conditions that would make it difficult to reach a common standard.

Under the new rules, employers can also reduce the amount they charge employees for coverage who participate in a workplace wellness program up to 30% of the cost of health coverage.  This is up from 20% before the ACA.

The new incentives under the ACA make it easier for employers to implement workplace wellness programs, which can help slow the progression of chronic disease, provide screenings that lead to early detection, lower the costs of healthcare and pass savings onto employees.

To read more about the RAND report on workplace wellness programs, click here.

To read more about the Affordable Care Act’s role in workplace wellness programs, click here.

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