Employee Benefits- DOL Releases Final Rules On Wellness Programs

According to a May 29 News Release, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury have issued final rules on employment-based wellness programs. The new rules may be found here.

The final rules continue to support participatory wellness programs, which generally are available without regard to an individual’s health status. These include programs that reimburse for the cost of membership in a fitness center; that provide a reward to employees for attending a monthly, no-cost health education seminar; or that reward employees who complete a health risk assessment, without requiring them to take further action.

The rules also outline standards for nondiscriminatory health-contingent wellness programs, which generally reward individuals who meet a specific standard related to their health. Examples of health-contingent wellness programs include programs that provide a reward to those who do not use, or decrease their use of, tobacco, or programs that reward those who achieve a specified health-related goal, such as a specified cholesterol level, weight, or body mass index, as well as those who fail to meet such goals but take certain other healthy actions.

The News Release says further that the final rules ensure flexibility for employers by increasing the maximum reward that may be offered under appropriately designed wellness programs, including outcome-based programs. The final rules also protect consumers by requiring that health-contingent wellness programs be reasonably designed, are uniformly available to all similarly situated individuals and accommodate recommendations made at any time by an individual’s physician, based on medical appropriateness. The final rules will be effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014.