KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

New Rule Allows Employers To Increase The Use Of Wellness Incentives

The final regulation gives businesses more leeway to tie workers' premium costs to efforts to get them to use more healthy behaviors, such as increasing exercise or quitting smoking.

The New York Times: Employers Get Leeway On Health Incentives
The Obama administration issued a final rule on Wednesday that gives employers greater leeway to use employee wellness programs, with financial rewards and penalties for workers worth up to 50 percent of the premium as an incentive to exercise, quit smoking, lose weight, eat more healthful food and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Tens of millions of workers could be affected (Pear, 5/29).

The Wall Street Journal: Employers Get OK To Boost Wellness Incentives
Employers who offer wellness programs aimed at helping people lose weight or quit smoking will be able to boost financial incentives starting next year under rules issued Wednesday by the Obama administration. The rules apply in particular to a growing category of employer programs tied to specific health goals like quitting smoking or improving health measures such as body mass index, cholesterol or blood pressure. Some employers reward employees who meet certain goals and penalize others -- such as smokers who don't try to quit -- with higher health-insurance premiums (Dooren, 5/29).

Kaiser Health News: Final Rule Upholds Increased Rewards, Penalties For Wellness Participation
Employers will be able to increase rewards to workers who participate in wellness programs under final rules released Wednesday by the Obama administration. The final rules, similar to those proposed in November as part of the Affordable Care Act, have raised concerns among advocates who represent people with chronic or severe illnesses, as well as among some employers. They allow employers to increase workers' financial stakes from 20 percent of the cost of their health premiums to 30 percent, starting next year (Appleby, 5/29).

The Washington Post: New Federal Rules Prevent Firms From Discriminating Through Wellness Programs
The Obama administration issued final regulations Wednesday designed to prevent companies from discriminating against sick employees through corporate wellness programs. The programs, which have gained in popularity in recent years, provide incentives for employees to improve their health. Some give medical insurance discounts to workers who meet specific metrics for blood pressure and body-mass index (Somashekhar, 5/29).

Modern Healthcare: ACA Wellness Rule Called Too Flexible By Some
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provides incentives and flexibility for employees to participate in workplace wellness programs offered by their group health plans. But some employer groups are objecting to certain provisions of a final rule issued today by HHS, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Labor and Treasury departments that provides incentives for nondiscriminatory wellness programs. They contend that the rule imposes an excessive burden on employers to provide flexibility to employees for their participation and how they qualify for financial rewards (Block, 5/29).

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