Final wellness regulations create new programme categories and complications

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By Christine L Richardson, Thomas N Makris and Matthew C Ryan

The departments of labour, treasury and health and human services (the ‘departments’) recently published final Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations on wellness programmes, effective in 2014. The regulations retain the existing distinction between participatory and health-contingent wellness programmes, but clarify that many wellness programmes have been incorrectly classified as participatory. The regulations also split health-contingent wellness programmes into two subcategories subject to new requirements. While reviewing programmes for consistency with these regulations, plans must simultaneously track state and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulatory efforts.

Right now, healthcare cost containment is a top priority for employers, employees and the departments. In this environment, attention has inevitably turned to employer wellness programmes and their potential for improving employee health, reducing long-term costs and providing immediate returns on investment. A recent RAND Corporation report confirms this trend, finding that more than 60 per cent of employers with 100 or more employees sponsor a wellness programme…

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