Wellness Programs Can Reduce Health Care Costs, But Can Your Bank Afford the Legal Risks?

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One option is wellness programs, which provide employees with incentives to engage in healthy behaviors. These programs have spread in both size and importance. According to one survey, 68 percent of employers provided employees with wellness programs and 53 percent have extended their programs to cover dependents, such as spouses and children. This is not surprising given the potential benefits. For every dollar spent on wellness programs, medical costs fall by $3.27 and absenteeism costs fall by $2.73.

In spite of these benefits, wellness programs are subject to evolving and expanding regulation and, if not carefully designed, could expose a bank to legal liability. Democrats in Congress have expressed concern that wellness programs could be used to discriminate against the unhealthy, and claimed that the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) bars such “health status discrimination” by group health plans. Indeed, wellness plans are only excluded from the ACA prohibition if they meet certain requirements.

Originally published in www.wabankers.com - Issues & Answers - Counselor's Corners - March/April 2013.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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