EEOC Issues Proposed Rule on Employer Wellness Programs

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Employer wellness programs are intended to encourage healthier lifestyles or prevent disease among workers.  These programs oftentimes use health risk assessments and biometric screenings to help determine a worker’s health risk factors, like body weight, cholesterol and blood pressure levels.  Some employers offer financial and other incentives for employees who participate in these programs or achieve specified health outcomes.

On April 16, 2015, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued a proposed rule to provide much-needed guidance to employers and employees about how employer-sponsored wellness programs offered as part of an employer’s group health plan can comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) and the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”).

The EEOC’s proposed rule makes clear that wellness programs are permissible so long as they are voluntary and reasonably likely to promote health or prevent disease.  Employers may not use wellness programs to discriminate based on disability and may not deny health coverage or discipline employees for refusing to participate in the program.  For those employees choosing to participate in a wellness program, employers may offer incentives up to 30 percent of the total cost of employee-only coverage.  Under the proposed rule, medical information collected as part of a wellness program may be disclosed to employers only in aggregate form that does not reveal the employee’s identity and must be kept confidential.

Connell Foley’s labor and employment law attorneys will continue to track this proposed rule and provide further legal updates on the status of employer wellness programs.