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Are you ready for the EEOC’s new wellness rules?

On January 1, 2017, the EEOC’s new wellness rules for employers will go live, and simultaneously, companies will become subject to various penalties for non-compliance.

The rules, which include limits on incentives, new rules on health-related inquiries and a revised definition of what it means for a program to be considered voluntary, only affect wellness programs that include medical inquiries and mandatory medical exams (including those plans that offer a health risk assessment).

So, while it might be premature to start thinking about changes that aren’t going to be ushered in until the new year, realistically, most companies are currently in the process of revising their health insurance and wellness offerings, so it’s worth considering these important changes before you make big decisions about your program selections.

Defining voluntary:

Under the revised rules, the EEOC defines a voluntary program as one that:

  • does not require participation
  • does not deny access to health insurance or benefits to an employee for non-participation
  • does not retaliate against, interfere with, coerce, intimidate or threaten any employee who does not participate or fails to achieve certain health outcomes
  • provides a notice that explains the medical information that will be obtained, how it will be used, who will receive it, and the restrictions on disclosure
  • Complies with the rule’s incentive limits

Defining a health program:

Per the EEOC, an employer-sponsored wellness program that includes medical inquiries and exams must be reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease and therefore must:

  • have a reasonable chance of improving the health of, or preventing disease in, participating members
  • not be overly burdensome, a subterfuge for violating the ADA or other laws prohibiting employment discrimination, or highly suspicious in the method chosen to promote health or prevent disease
  • not exist merely to shift costs to employees based on their health
  • not be used only to predict an employer’s future health costs
  • use the health information collected from participants to provide follow-up information or advice to those participants or design a program that addresses at least some conditions identified, and
  • not impose unreasonably intrusive procedures, an overly burdensome amount of time for participation or significant costs related to medical exams on employees.

Providing appropriate information:

The revised rules also include a new notice requirement for employers to ensure that employee’s participation in the health program is voluntary. In a nutshell, the EEOC requires that the notice clearly state what medical information will be obtained, how this information will be used, who will receive the information and a thorough explanation of disclosure protections. To view a sample notice that you can edit to meet your own needs, click here.

You can learn about the new rules at the link.

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