Why ACA guidelines could harm success of wellness programs


A successful wellness program not only boosts employees' health and lowers costs, but also provides employees with incentives and perks. That's why more employers are teaming up with insurers to create effective wellness programs that focus on improvements, no matter how small.

However, Affordable Care Act guidelines could dampen the success of such programs. Employers offering programs can either reward or penalize employees who don't meet specific goals. Yet even if they don't achieve a specific outcome, employers and insurers still must reward these employees. This, of course, may be unfair to those employees who do, in fact, meet the targeted health goals, reports the Wall Street Journal.

So as wellness programs continue to gain momentum, there is a need for greater flexibility within the programs, according to a report to be released on Thursday by the Business Roundtable, notes WSJ.

For example, many employers offer bonuses to their employees who quit smoking. Employees who quit smoking will then receive incentives, but those who take an alternative approach, such as attending a class, will also receive incentives, even if they continue to smoke, notes the WSJ.

It's important to note that not all wellness programs--and employees--are the same. Some companies have workers join exercise classes, while others focus on monitoring an employee's blood sugar level.

So with the call for greater flexibility comes more experimentation.

For instance, many employers are now using cash incentives, for they believe the money will be a great motivating factor, according to an employer survey from Towers Watson, reports the Washington Post.

"We are seeing more and more employers intrigued by this approach because they have not been able to get results from a purely participation-based incentive," Randy Abbott, a senior researcher in charge of the employer survey at Towers Watson, told the Post.

or more:
- here's the WSJ article
- read the WaPo piece

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