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What kinds of wellness programs exist?

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Q. What should I look for in a workplace wellness program for our company?

A. Federal government regulations allow for two types of workplace wellness programs that employers can implement in the workplace: participation-only programs, which reward participation, regardless of results, and standard-based programs, which reward the attainment of particular results.

1. Participation-only programs

A participation-only wellness program does not condition the reward on individuals satisfying a health-related standard. Rewards are based solely on participation in the program. A participation-only wellness program must be available to all similarly situated individuals. Examples:

  • Reimbursement of fitness center membership costs
  • Health screenings that don’t base rewards on outcomes
  • Programs encouraging preventive care by waiving co-pays or deductibles for services such as prenatal care or well-baby visits
  • Programs that reimburse the costs of participation in smoking cessation programs, even if unsuccessful
  • Rewards for employees who attend no-cost monthly health seminars.

2. Standard-based wellness programs

A wellness program is “standard-based” if any of the conditions for obtaining a reward are based on achieving a health-related standard. Examples include programs that:

  • Impose a premium surcharge based on tobacco use
  • Use health screenings or risk assessments to identify employees with specified medical conditions or risk factors, and require employees identified as outside the targeted range to take steps to obtain the reward.

In April, the EEOC released proposed rules that provide guidance on the extent to which employers may use incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs.

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