Wellness Provisions Advance In Reform Legislation

Employers could incentivize wellness if provisions passed by the Senate finance and health committees become law. The Washington Post reports: "By more than doubling the maximum penalties that companies can apply to employees who flunk medical evaluations, the legislation could put workers under intense financial pressure to lose weight, stop smoking or even lower their cholesterol." The bipartisan approach, which has been "largely eclipsed in the health-care debate, builds on a trend that is in play among some corporations and that more workers will see in the benefits packages they bring home during this fall's open enrollment. Some employers offer lower premiums to workers who complete personal health assessments; others limit coverage for smokers."

The current effort is "backed by major employer groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. It is opposed by labor unions and organizations devoted to combating serious illnesses, such as the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the American Diabetes Association. Critics say employers could use the rewards and penalties to drive some workers out of their health plans." Critics say the effort creates a huge loophole to reform's major goals of trying to ensure no one is denied coverage or charged higher premiums base on their health condition (Hilzenrath, 10/16).

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