Archive for the ‘Workplace Wellness’ Category

Congress Taking (Small) Steps for Employee Wellness Programs | Florida Health Insurance Broker

April 16th, 2015 by Clemons

By Jennifer Kupper

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) specifically encourages and promotes the expansion of wellness programs in both the individual and group markets. In the individual market, the secretaries of the Capitol Building, Washington DCdepartments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Treasury, and Labor are directed to establish a pilot program to test the impact of providing at-risk populations who utilize community health centers an individualized wellness plan that is designed to reduce risk factors for preventable conditions as identified by a comprehensive risk-factor assessment. Results will be compared against a controlled group.

In the group market, the secretaries are directed to establish a multi-state, employer-sponsored, health-contingent wellness program demonstration project. The objectives are to determine the effectiveness of employer-sponsored, health-contingent wellness programs, the impact of wellness programs on the affordability and access to care for participants versus non-participants, the impact of cost-sharing and incentives on participant behavior, and the effectiveness of other types of rewards.

There is, however, a huge disconnect within the administration. This is exemplified by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) revived attacks and recent litigation against employers who sponsor presumably PPACA-compliant wellness programs. Employers are waking up to the sad facts that the risk in sponsoring health-contingent wellness programs is mounting, the EEOC remains silent in providing guidance*, and the corporate wellness industry is in quandary.

In response to the recent litigation, two parallel bills were introduced the first week of March (S. 620/H.R. 1189). With less than a 2% chance of being enacted, Mr. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) of the Senate and Mr. Jon Kline (R-Minn.) of the House introduced the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (the legislation). The purpose of the legislation is “[t]o clarify rules relating to nondiscriminatory employer wellness programs as such programs relate to premium discounts, rebates, or modifications to otherwise applicable cost sharing under group health plans.”

The legislation would allow employers to implement workplace wellness programs or employer-sponsored, health-contingent programs without the fear of running afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and its amendments (ADAAA) or Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), so long as the wellness programs operated pursuant to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) nondiscrimination and wellness regulations.

The legislation also provides that a sponsoring employer can establish a deadline of up to 180 days for employees to request and complete a reasonable alternative standard (or waiver of the otherwise applicable standard). Further, the legislation affirms that the employees’ spouse and family members can participate and would have the same protections afforded as an employee-participant. In other words, medical history and biometric information of participating family members would not be an unlawful acquisition under GINA.

* On March 20, 2015, the EEOC voted to send a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on the interplay of the ADA and PPACA with respect to wellness programs to the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for clearance.

For more data on wellness program features employers are using, download the 2014 Health Plan Executive Summary. This survey – which has been conducted every year since 2005 – is the nation’s largest health plan survey and provides more accurate benchmarking data than any other source in the industry. You can also contact a UBA Partner Firm for a customized benchmark report based on industry, region and business size.

Topics: wellness, employee benefits, wellness programs, PPACA Affordable Care Act, 2014 Health Plan Survey

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In the Spotlight Again: Workplace Violence – Employee Benefits Panama City Beach

October 19th, 2014 by Clemons

With three tragic incidents of workplace violence occurring during the same week in September, it’s no wonder the topic is once again making national headlines.

Just ahead of these terrible events, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported citing two companies for knowingly violating their obligation to protect workers from unsafe conditions — under the “general duty” or “broad duty” clause — and fined them both in excess of $70,000. This clause requires employers to create workplaces that are free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause serious physical harm or death to employees.

Given these recent cases and the highly publicized spate of workplace violence, employers everywhere are pondering the question of how to prevent violent incidents from occurring to and among their workers.

An outstanding article from Human Resource Executive Online, “Fighting Workplace Violence,” offers several ideas worth considering, including:

  • Creating a formal workplace violence prevention policy that is shared among all workers and contained in a company’s Employee Handbook.
  • Forming workplace violence prevention committees.
  • Assessing security gaps.
  • Establishing employee hotlines.

The article goes on to quote Richard Mendelson, deputy regional administrator at OSHA in New York, who said that senior executives, in particular, need to demonstrate their commitment toward developing a safe environment by implementing administrative controls and supporting zero tolerance policies for workplace violence. Mendelson also suggested that employers require employees to work in pairs or teams in certain situations and that they train employees to recognize threatening conditions.

Although workplace violence is back in the media spotlight, it appears that workplace homicides (which represent only one category of workplace violence) have actually decreased 16% from 2012 to 2013, according to data being compiled by organizations such as OSHA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to research by these organizations, 397 U.S. workplace deaths were homicides in 2013, accounting for 9% of all workplace deaths. Among the occupations in which a higher percentage of workplace deaths are due to homicide are retail sales, food preparation/serving, legal occupations, and business and financial operations.

If you’d like to learn more about how organizations can better prepare for and prevent workplace violence, the U.S. Department of Labor devotes an entire portion of its website to the topic of workplace violence.

The site addresses risk factors, prevention programs, training and enforcement and offers links to a wide variety of resources as well.


Rules Sought for Questionnaires

September 26th, 2013 by United Benefit Advisors

A federal lawmaker is asking the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate employer wellness programs that seek intimate health information from employees, and to issue guidelines preventing employers from using such programs to discriminate against workers.