ACA May Push Employers to Strengthen Wellness Programs

Benefits
by Stephen Bruce, PhD, PHR
"In yesterday’s Advisor, attorney Frank C. Morris Jr. covered critical legal challenges around wellness programs; today, how wellness programs will get a boost from the ACA, plus an introduction to the all-HR-in-one website, HR.BLR.com."

Your wellness program may get way more important under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), says Morris, a member of the firm Epstein Becker Green in its Washington, D.C., office who specializes in benefits.

There are already many benefits to wellness programs, but Morris is convinced they will become even more crucial as the ACA unfolds over the next several years.

Higher Premium Differentials Will Drive Wellness Popularity

Beginning in 2014, the ACA will allow for between 30 percent and 50 percent premium differentials for employer-sponsored healthcare coverage. The ACA may also remove the voluntary aspect of wellness program restrictions, predicts Morris.

Many more employees are likely to be swayed toward participation in wellness programs with that 30 percent to 50 percent premium differential as a carrot. To offer that substantial a difference, companies are likely to require significant participation that should yield even more significant health savings than are being achieved now.

And, of course, if programs become mandatory, that could mean even bigger savings. (It may bring bigger headaches for HR as well as those most reluctant participants get dragged into the program.)

However, the biggest impact of wellness programs, Morris feels, will be on mitigating the impact of what’s been dubbed the "Cadillac tax." Beginning on January 1, 2018, he explains, insurance companies and plan administrators of self-insured plans will face a 40 percent nondeductible tax on so-called Cadillac healthcare coverage. That’s any plan that costs at least $10,200 for an individual or $27,500 for a family, including both employee and employer contributions.

Such expensive plans may provide good care, but under the ACA, they’re simply too pricey.

The answer, Morris urges, is wellness programs to fill in the gaps and avoid those stiff employer taxes.


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How About an On-site Medical Clinic?

Here’s one more cost-saving option that Morris encourages employers to consider—on-site medical clinics. These clinics cost employees and employers far less for more care than visits to outside providers.

Think your company is too small to offer such an option? Consider your location: If you operate in a high-rise building or an industrial park, you may be able to cooperate with neighboring businesses to create a jointly sponsored clinic that would serve all your employees.

Wellness and benefits—just one more daily challenge. In compensation, if it’s not one thing, it’s another. Like lagging the market, FMLA intermittent leave, and overtime hassles, and then on top of that, whatever the agencies and courts throw in your way.

You need a go-to resource, and our editors recommend the “everything-HR-in-one website,” HR.BLR.com. As an example of what you will find, here are some policy recommendations concerning e-mail, excerpted from a sample policy on the website:

Privacy. The director of information services can override any individual password and thus has access to all e-mail messages in order to ensure compliance with company policy. This means that employees do not have an expectation of privacy in their company e-mail or any other information stored or accessed on company compute


Find out what the buzz is all about. Take a no-cost look at HR.BLR.com, solve your top problem, and get a complimentary gift.


E-mail review. All e-mail is subject to review by management. Your use of the e-mail system grants consent to the review of any of the messages to or from you in the system in printed form or in any other medium.

Solicitation. In line with our general non-solicitation policy, e-mail must not be used to solicit for outside business ventures, personal parties, social meetings, charities, membership in any organization, political causes, religious causes, or other matters not connected to the company’s business.

We should point out that this is just one of hundreds of sample policies on the site. (You’ll also find analysis of laws and issues, job descriptions, and complete training materials for hundreds of HR topics.)

You can examine the entire HR.BLR.com program free of any cost or commitment. It’s quite remarkable—30 years of accumulated HR knowledge, tools, and skills gathered in one place and accessible at the click of a mouse.

What’s more, we’ll supply a free downloadable copy of our special report, Critical HR Recordkeeping—From Hiring to Termination, just for looking at HR.BLR.com. If you’d like to try it at absolutely no cost or obligation to continue (and get the special report, no matter what you decide), go here.

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  1. Barb        
    February 26, 2013 12:48 pm

    How would the ACA remove the voluntary aspect of wellness programs? Is there anything to that effect in the legislation as drafted? As much as I favor employer-provided wellness programs, it’s hard to imagine how mandatory wellness programs could get enacted in today’s political climate.