Wellness program success: Help consumers, don't penalize them [Special Report]

Execs at Humana, Harvard Pilgrim share their keys to promoting healthy lifestyles

By Dori Zweig

Wellness programs have received a lot of heat over the past year and a half.

Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had to issue proposed rules to clear up confusion regarding what's allowed and not allowed under wellness programs. The EEOC declared that wellness programs are allowed under both the Affordable Care Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) but cannot discriminate against individual with disabilities.

The EEOC's initiative stemmed from a lawsuit filed last October against New Jersey-based Honeywell over its wellness program, claiming the company violated the ADA by illegally requiring employees to partake in biometric screenings or face financial penalties.

Then in November, the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota issued a ruling on the lawsuit and stated that wellness programs, like the one Honeywell offered, were legal and could, in fact, penalize employees for not participating.

Amid the ongoing saga, one thing is certain: Wellness programs are legal. But what isn't clear is the effectiveness of such programs that penalize individuals for not participating. Now that wellness programs are more than a 'nice to have,' payers and employers need to strengthen their initiatives, focusing less on punishing participants and more on promoting healthy lifestyles.

In this special report, FierceHealthPayer spoke with executives at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Humana to discuss how their wellness programs transform both the industry and their members' lives.

Related Articles:
Feds sue Honeywell over wellness program that requires blood, medical tests
EEOC's proposed wellness program guidelines up for debate
Judge: Wellness programs can penalize non-participants
Wellness programs: More than a 'nice to have'