Boy have consumers been getting mixed messages about potential changes to wellness programs as they related to the implementation of PPACA!  In a previous post, we talked about some incentives that may be disappearing…or maybe not….

According to a recent BenefitsPro arcticle, new PPACA rules announced in May 2013 show that “Workers who lose weight or quit smoking while enrolled in a workplace wellness programs could see their health care premiums drop…as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).”

“As the mounting cost of health insurance continues to strain budgets, both employers and policy makers are increasingly turning to wellness programs as a way to help bring those costs under control.  Proponents say wellness programs can save employers as much as $7 for every $1 spent, as well as deliver higher employee morale, reduced absenteeism and increased productivity and retention.  The rules support ‘participatory wellness programs’ that, for example, reimburse employees for the cost of membership in a fitness center, or provide some kind of reward to employees for attending a monthly, no-cost health education seminar.  The rules also outline standards to reward individuals who meet a specific outcome related to their health, say losing weight or cutting smoking.”

“Under the rules, employers can bump up the maximum permissible dollar amount of the rewards offered to employees to 30 percent — it had been 20 percent — of the total cost of their health care coverage, and can raise incentives tied to smoking prevention or reduction programs to up to 50 percent of total coverage costs.”  Wow, now that’s some incentive, no?!

“‘These final regulations state that a wellness program is reasonably designed if it has a reasonable chance of improving the health of, or preventing disease in, participating individuals, and is not overly burdensome, is not a subterfuge for discrimination based on a health factor, and is not highly suspect in the method chosen to promote health or prevent disease,’ agency officials said.  The rules will go into effect Jan. 1.”

So, what are your thoughts on these new rules?  Did they go in the right direction?  What is your employer planning to do about adding or retaining a wellness program at your company?

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