EEOC issues preliminary rule for wellness programs: 5 things to know

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Thursday that employers may continue to offer financial and other incentives for employees who participate in workplace wellness programs or achieve certain health outcomes.

The news comes via the EEOC's preliminary rule, which includes some guidelines for employers offering these types of incentives.

Here are 5 things to know about the preliminary rule and the guidelines.

1. If an employee health program seeks information about employee health or medical examinations, the program must be "reasonably likely to promote health or prevent disease," according to a news release.

2. The EEOC said employees may not be required to participate in a wellness program, or denied health coverage or disciplined if they refuse to participate.

3. Wellness programs may not be used to discriminate based on disability, and under the Americans with Disabilities Act, companies may offer incentives — or, conversely, penalties — of up to 30 percent of the total cost of employee-only coverage in connection with wellness programs, federal regulators said.

4. The permitted wellness programs can include medical examinations or questions about employees' health (such as questions on a health risk assessment).  

5. Derek Newell, CEO of Jiff, a Palo Alto, Calif.- based startup that helps companies lower healthcare costs, called the news "a positive step toward giving certainty to benefit programs that can be a powerful tool in helping businesses improve employee health and reduce healthcare costs."

The EEOC's proposed regulations may be viewed here, and will be officially published on Monday. The public has 60 days from then, or until June 19, to submit comments. The agency will then issue a final regulation.


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Nurse scheduling rethought: Case study at Southampton Hospital

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