Legislation Worker health and wellness

GOP-sponsored bill aims to clarify wellness program incentives

Lamar Alexander

Lamar Alexander

Washington – Republican leaders on March 2 introduced legislation that they hope will clarify employers’ rights to offer incentives to workers participating in wellness programs.

Under a provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers can discount health insurance premiums by as much as 50 percent for workers who maintain healthy lifestyle choices, such as having a healthy cholesterol level or not smoking. But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed lawsuits against some employers, arguing their wellness programs violate aspects of the Americans with Disabilities Act and/or the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

The new legislation – the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act – would:

  • Reaffirm that employee wellness program participation can be tied to a financial reward
  • Clarify that an employee’s spouse may participate in the program
  • Give employees 180 days to request and complete an alternative wellness program if the original program is “unreasonably difficult” or medically inadvisable for their participation

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Rep. John Kline (R-MN) introduced the legislation in the Senate and House, respectively.

Some studies have linked wellness programs to a healthier workforce and reduced health care costs, but the results are not universal.