Wellness Program Final Rules Issued

May 29, 2013 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury issued final rules for employment-based wellness programs.

The final rules support workplace health promotion and prevention as a means to reduce the burden of chronic illness, improve health and limit growth of health care costs, while ensuring that individuals are protected from unfair underwriting practices that could otherwise reduce benefits based on health status.  

The rules continue to support participatory wellness programs, which generally are available without regard to an individual’s health status. These include programs that: reimburse for the cost of membership in a fitness center; that provide a reward to employees for attending a monthly, no-cost health education seminar; or that reward employees who complete a health risk assessment, without requiring them to take further action.  

The rules also outline standards for nondiscriminatory health-contingent wellness programs, which generally reward individuals who meet a specific standard related to their health. Examples of health-contingent wellness programs include programs that provide a reward to those who do not use, or decrease their use of, tobacco, or programs that reward those who achieve a specified health-related goal, such as a specified cholesterol level, weight, or body mass index, as well as those who fail to meet such goals but take certain other healthy actions.  

The final rules will be effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2014. Text is here  

In addition, regulators issued the “Workplace Wellness Programs Study: Final Report.” It is here.