Workplace Wellness: Promises, Challenges, and Legal Questions

June 22, 2016

Employers have long been advancing a variety of efforts to engage their employees in their health care, reduce absenteeism, and decrease the cost of employee health benefits. Recently, however, some employer wellness programs offering significant incentives for participation–or penalties for nonparticipation–have raised legal issues regarding privacy and discrimination and are the subject of a recent proposed rule from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

This briefing provided an overview of the scope of workplace wellness programs, as well as their pros and cons from the perspective of both employers and employees. It also explored the legal framework for workplace wellness programs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); explained the recent EEOC proposed rule; and explored the future prospects for workplace wellness programs.

Highlights Video

Interview with Dan Newton and Karen Pollitz

If you were unable to attend the briefing, here are some key takeaways:
Karen Pollitz, senior fellow, private insurance and health reforms, The Kaiser Family Foundation
While most large employers offer workplace wellness programs, only about 40 percent of workers participate, said Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Dan Newton, vice president, product/solutions development and behavior economics, Anthem Care Management
Employees want workplace wellness programs to be easy, engaging, meaningful and relevant, according to a 2014 Aon Hewitt study. Simple and clear communication between employees and their employers is key, said Dan Newton of Anthem.

Sam Bagenstos, professor of law, University of Michigan School of Law
It is hard to determine just how voluntary workplace wellness programs truly are, according to University of Michigan law professor Sam Bagenstos. That may be because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the key legal protection for employees of firms with wellness programs, doesn’t have a clear way of defining “voluntary,” he added.

Katie Mahoney, executive director, health policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
There is a lot of confusion among the business community regarding the legal guidelines for workplace wellness programs, said Katie Mahoney of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has proposed rules on this topic, but many employers see them as conflicting with Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions on wellness.

Ed Howard of the Alliance moderated the panel discussion.

Follow the briefing on Twitter: #WorkplaceWellness

Contact: Monica Laufer (202) 789-2300

The event was sponsored by the nonpartisan Alliance for Health Reform, with support from Anthem, Inc.
Event description goes here


Full Transcript (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Speaker Presentations

Karen Pollitz Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Dan Newton Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Katie Mahoney Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Samuel Bagenstos Presentation (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Event Details

Agenda (Adobe Acrobat PDF)
Speaker Biographies (Adobe Acrobat PDF)

Event Resources