shutterstock_215948584Many aspects of the Affordable Care Act emphasize prevention and wellness. For example, the ACA rewards employers who offer wellness programs, and employers can pass on the savings to employees. More than 60 percent of Americans obtain their health insurance through an employment-based plan.

Ask about your company’s wellness plans. Typically, such programs are one of two types:

  • Activity programs: These are physical activity classes or programs. Employees who complete a course or program can earn rewards or financial incentives.
  • Outcome-based programs: These are programs that monitor an employee’s efforts to improve on a specific health goal, such as losing weight, lowering LDL cholesterol or stopping smoking. Employees who meet certain health criteria may qualify for a reward.

Healthy Rewards

The federal government has issued standards for the maximum financial reward employers can provide to employees participating in wellness programs. The amounts were raised in 2014 under the ACA, providing more incentive for employees to participate in wellness programs.

Rewards are offered in a variety of forms, such as cash, discounted gym memberships or prizes like t-shirts or gift cards. Some employers even link health-insurance cost-sharing incentives to participation or attainment of health goals. For example, employees may be able to qualify for a reduction in their health plan premiums or receive an employer contribution to Health Reimbursement Accounts.

Employers may also offer “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 or that provide a reward to employees who attend a health education seminar or complete a health risk assessment.

The federal government also issues rules to protect against employee discrimination related to health-contingent wellness programs.

A Win-Win Workplace

Studies show both employers and employees reap the benefits of workplace wellness programs. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, employees who work in companies with a strong culture of health are three times as likely to report taking action to improve their health. These employees also rate their work performance higher and who have higher job-satisfaction scores. Moreover, companies with a strong culture of health have better financial outcomes and lower employee turnover.

U.S. Department of Labor –
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention –
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services –

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