New Bill Would Encourage Employers to Offer Wellness Programs

April 3, 2009 ( - U.S. Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) and U.S. Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) and Mary Bono Mack (R-California) on Thursday reintroduced legislation designed to make wellness and prevention part of the national discussion on health care reform.

A news release on Harkin’s Web site said The Healthy Workforce Act would provide a tax credit to companies that offer effective and comprehensive wellness programs. The legislation would permit businesses to receive a credit for incorporating sound employee health management practices into their plan design, and would ease barriers for both small and mid-sized employers to make a sound investment, the news release said.

To receive the credit, programs would be required to include components such as health risk assessments, health awareness and behavior change programs, meaningful incentives for program participation, and an employee committee that tailors programs to meet workforce needs.

“Health reform will not be complete without prevention and wellness being a centerpiece for fixing this broken system, the lifesaving and cost-saving benefits have been proven in study after study,” said Harkin, in the announcement. “With health care costs quickly increasing, it is no surprise that some companies report spending more than 50% of their profits to cover these expenses. Employer spending on health promotion and chronic disease prevention is a good investment.”

The announcement also noted that National Workplace Wellness Week is April 5-11, 2009. The U.S. Workplace Alliance is asking its members and private and public employers across the country to showcase during the week how workplace wellness programs have succeeded in reducing employer health care costs and producing healthier and more productive employees.