HR Advocates To DOL: Flexibility Key To Successful Wellness Programs

Filed under: Health Benefits,Human Resources,Management,News,Politics |

WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resource association, said it  has submitted a comment letter to the U.S. Department of Labor responding to the request for comments on Wellness Programs governed by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

Julie White, Swiss Village director of nursing services, swims at the Swiss Village Wellness Pavilion (Photo William Rozier USA Today/KHN)

Julie White, Swiss Village director of nursing services, swims at the Swiss Village Wellness Pavilion (Photo William Rozier USA Today/KHN)

“The majority of WorldatWork members are committed to providing valuable health benefits to their employees, however the rising cost of health care continues to be a serious consideration when designing and evaluating plan offerings for each budgetary year,” said Cara Woodson Welch, WorldatWork, vice president, policy and public affairs.

Managing increased costs has encouraged employers to depend more on health and wellness initiatives to build and foster a successful and productive workforce. According to a 2012 WorldatWork study, “Total Rewards and Employee Well-Being” 65% of organizations measuring their well-being programs reported an extremely positive or positive effect on health-care costs.

“Wellness programs are currently successful in part due to allowing employers the flexibility to design a program that works for their specific workforce,” said Welch. “The ideal wellness program is unique to each organization, and flexibility in plan design is necessary for employers to create the best plan to serve as an effective and integral piece of an employee’s benefits package.

“Employers know best their own workforces, business models, cost structures, and culture making them the most knowledgeable regarding how a program should be designed and administered.

As these regulations are finalized, WorldatWork urges regulators against setting absolute guidelines for wellness programs which would deter flexibility and the overall success of specific wellness programs.”

Specific recommendations included in the comment letter are listed here:

  • It should be left to the employer to decide how to apportion the financial rewards among family members when the health goal may not be applicable to all family members.
  • As opposed to absolutes, most of our members welcomed additional examples, standards and best practices for benchmarking purposes so as to provide “recommended” guidelines for defining a “reasonable alternative standard” for wellness plans.
  • Additional guidelines as examples on nonmedical reasons as to why an employee might receive a waiver or reasonable alternative would be welcome and still allow the employer to determine what is best for its workforce and situation.

Additional recommendations can be viewed in the full comment letter. The formal request for comment number is, Incentives for Nondiscriminatory Wellness Programs in Group Health Plans, RIN 1210-AB55.

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