Wellness Programs They are a Changing

Here’s a part of the PPAC Act you may not have thought about before. You know those incentive breaks some employees get for improving their health, like losing weight or stopping smoking? Some of those look like they will change in 2014.

Those programs are called Health-Contingent Wellness Programs (HCWPs). An article published by the Phoenix Business Journal provided this good example: “Employers looking to charge smokers higher premiums ‘will be required to tell smokers about smoking cessation classes, online coaching and other programs that encourage quitting,’ said Lisa Weston, director of wellness promotion for the Bagnall Co., which designs employee benefits programs. A smoker then could be charged a higher premium only if he or she chooses not to enroll in such a program, she added.”

The article continues, stating that “Currently, the maximum an employer can charge smokers is 20 percent above the standard insurance premium. But as of Jan. 1, that number will increase to 50 percent. For all other biometric markers (blood pressure and cholesterol, for example), companies will be able to charge up to 30 percent more for being outside the normal range, as long as all employees are given ample opportunity to meet the standard.”

Although more employers currently offer “participatory wellness programs, in which employees can get rewards simply by enrolling in the programs,” those looking to further cut healthcare costs could switch to HCWPs.  “If an employer has offered an activity-based wellness program for several years that has focused on encouraging compliance, an outcomes-based program is the next natural evolution.”

Do you participate in any wellness programs?  Did you do so willingly or only to capitalize on an incentive?  Please share your thoughts about these and any other upcoming changes, either in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.  We look forward to learning from you!

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