SOURCE: Bravo Wellness

Bravo Wellness

April 17, 2015 16:09 ET

EEOC Issues Positive Proposal for Wellness Programs

CLEVELAND, OH--(Marketwired - Apr 17, 2015) - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a highly-anticipated preliminary rule on workplace wellness programs and their impact on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on Thursday.

Bravo Wellness applauds the EEOC's proposed rule for reflecting a fair balance of equipping employers with meaningful tools to mitigate rising healthcare costs and promote better health in the workplace, while protecting the privacy rights of their employees. Although a few questions and inconsistencies with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations remain, this is a clear sign to employers that the EEOC supports their efforts to control costs and improve the lives of workers and their families.

"There is a growing body of evidence that proves meaningful incentives will frequently cause those who typically decline participation in wellness programs to get engaged, stay engaged and to reduce their chronic risk factors," said Jim Pshock, Bravo Wellness Founder and CEO. "The EEOC guidance removes the final compliance barrier many employers feared, and will result in greater adoption of these win/win program designs."

The proposed rule, which the EEOC announced on Thursday, April 16, 2015, would provide "much needed guidance" to both employees and employers about wellness programs offered as part of the employer's group health plan which comply with the ADA and HIPAA.

"We feel very much prepared and ahead of the curve on this," said Tony Bodak, Bravo's Vice President of Operations. "We've always required explicit privacy notices, made sure there is ample time and notice of alternatives given to employees and emphasized that the goal of these programs is health promotion and improvement. Our plan documentation and security standards equal or exceed what is required elsewhere in the health insurance industry and what is proposed in these regulations. It's great to see these things become industry standards."

The proposed rules do not prohibit the use of incentives or penalties to encourage participation in employee health programs, but rather put limitations on how employers can treat employees who do not elect to participate.

The EEOC's proposed rule makes clear that wellness programs -- along with incentives -- are here to stay. Until now, there were some lingering questions about the impact an EEOC decision could have on the longevity of workplace wellness programs. While the proposed rule may not reflect what appears in the final version, it does strongly indicate the EEOC's priority is to prevent employers from discriminating against those who do not participate in the program by terminating employment, refusing to offer coverage for non-participants, or offering penalties so exorbitant the program can no longer be considered voluntary.

The EEOC suggests in its proposal that employers can offer incentives -- as a reward or penalty -- amounting to no more than 30% of the total cost of an employee-only health plan to participate in their wellness plans. They acknowledge that up to 50% could be used for tobacco use as long as the amount above 30% doesn't require an individual to submit to a medical exam. The EEOC's proposal contends this should apply to participation-based programs, as well as health-contingent wellness programs, where incentives are tied to physical activity or achievement of specific health outcomes.

The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register for a 60-day public notice and comment period. Based on the variances seen between the proposed and final ACA wellness regulations, Bravo believes it is important not to draw final conclusions from the EEOC's proposed rule just yet, and encourage others to submit thoughtful comments as requested by the EEOC.

Bravo also believes that their clients are effectively positioned to align their wellness programs with the EEOC and ADA. With Bravo's enhanced capabilities to provide health coaching, activity programs, team challenges, tobacco cessation, and more, their clients are better positioned than ever to have the tools needed to offer programs that are reasonably designed to improve the health and well-being of their employees.

Bravo will use this opportunity to provide guidance to their clients as to where their wellness programs fit the spirit of the proposed rule and strengthen Bravo's position as compliance partners in the wellness incentives industry.

It will be interesting to see what if any impact this has on the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (S.620) now circulating through Congress, as well as the outstanding EEOC lawsuits against employers who crossed a previously unknown line. Bravo is actively engaged in monitoring this legislation and how the proposed regulations align with it. Bravo Wellness will unpack these proposed rules and what they may mean to wellness programs in their next webinar on Thursday, April 23 at 11:00 a.m. EST. Employers and brokers won't want to miss it. To sign up for Bravo's upcoming webinar, click the link here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7539991513108291842. Sign up soon as space is limited. 

Bravo Wellness is giving employers a free compliance consultation on their wellness plan. Click on the link to register: http://promotion.bravowell.com/free-compliance-consultation.

ABOUT BRAVO WELLNESS
 
Bravo Wellness has been a disruptive force in the wellness industry since its inception in 2008. Bravo pioneered the outcomes-based wellness incentive space and carefully designs compliant incentives that result in unprecedented engagement levels. Bravo's case studies prove and demonstrate sustained health improvement and reduced claims spending-all while equipping individuals to make better choices and providing thoughtful alternatives to those for whom special exceptions are warranted. With roots in data management, compliance and technology, Bravo recognizes that it's rarely the lack of activities that makes a program unsuccessful, it's often the lack of motivation and engagement -- a problem that can be solved. Visit www.bravowell.com to learn more.

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