The landscape of health insurance has drastically changed over the past few years with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While almost unheard of five years ago, more than a third of US employers now charge their workers a penalty if they don’t participate in wellness programs. As insurance professionals we deal in “lives” and sometimes forget that there are individuals behind those numbers with families and ailments that need to be covered.
These programs promote wellness and preventative habits and treatments to encourage employees to be healthy…but how much is too much? When does it become an issue violating these employees’ rights?
In 2014 Honeywell International asked workers to participate in voluntary screenings of their cholesterol, body-mass index and other health screenings. If employees chose not to participate they could face up to $4,000 in surcharges and lost incentives. This is nothing new in the world of the ACA, after all, the ACA promotes health and wellness for employees as a way to keep employees healthy and keeps costs low for providing insurance to employees.
It wasn’t the program that raised eyebrows; it was the cost of the penalties to the employees that chose not to participate. Under the ACA, employers can reward workers with as much as 30 percent of the cost of their health insurance benefits in return for participating in work sanctioned programs to monitor weights, cholesterol and other wellness measures.
Last week the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued new regulations. The rule makes is clear that wellness programs are permitted under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they may not be used to discriminate based on disability.
Steve Wojcik, VP of public policy at the National Business Group on Health said, “The EEOC has removed the cloud of uncertainty.”
So what do you think? Are the laws clear enough? Are financial incentives enough for employees/Americans to get healthy? What does this mean for the future of healthcare in our country?