I now wear a fitbit. This is something so new and trendy that Microsoft Word thinks “fitbit” is a typo. Still many of the Generation Xers and the Millennials that work at Genesis have been using them for some time. For them it raised an awareness about the steps they take each day, what other forms of activity might mean for them and it even enlightens them on how well they sleep at night. And yes, once a few wore them, it fostered a bit of friendly competition.
Now as part of an internal 2015 Wellness Program at Genesis HR Solutions, we all wear them. And with that, awareness grew as did the competition. It’s only been a few weeks, but the buzz it has created is palpable. And that should be a good thing. After all, wellness programs are a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which logically should help reduce health care costs by creating legions of healthy employees.
It makes sense to me, but to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), not so much. And as Eric S. Dreiband writes in EEOC’s Strange War Against ObamaCare And Employer Wellness Plans, it pits a federal agency and federal legislation against each other. In 2006, the US Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services as well as the Treasury enacted regulations concerning wellness plans under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that allowed certain employers to reward employees who participate in such plans with financial inducements of up to twenty percent of the cost of health insurance coverage. It wasn’t until January 6, 2009 that the EEOC agreed with the standard, but surprisingly after President Obama took office, the EEOC rescinded its endorsement that same year, on March 6, less than two months later.
Now that the ACA is the law of the land, what does this mean for Wellness Programs? Dreiband suggests one option for employers, and that is to “stay the course”. Since no court has endorsed the EEOC position, and the courts that have considered the issue have ruled against the EEOC, it appears likely that Wellness Programs will survive this potential governmental gridlock.
I believe that Dreiband’s suggestion is a good one. As for me, I will continue to wear a fitbit as will others at Genesis where all generations of our staff will participate and become aware of the health benefits associated with this initiative. As for the competitive component, we will now “let the games begin!”
For more information about the benefits of wellness programs, please reach out to Genesis HR Solutions at AskUs@genesishrsolutions.com or 800-367-8367.
Genesis HR Solutions is the premier PEO provider for Massachusetts based businesses.