This past month the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Labor, and Treasury issued final rules on employment-based wellness programs. These final rules bolster the promotion of workplace health to decrease chronic illness, improve health, and limit increase the expenses of health care.  The rules will also ensure that individuals are guarded against unfair insurance underwriting tactics that could possibly reduce an employee’s benefits based on their health status.

Participatory wellness programs will continue to be supported by these final rules. Such programs are typically available to employees regardless of the status of an individual’s health and include benefits such as:

 (i) reimbursement of the cost for membership in a fitness center;

(ii) rewards to employees for attending monthly, no-cost health education meetings; or

(iii) rewards for employees who complete a health risk assessment.

These new final rules also set out the standards for nondiscriminatory health-contingent wellness programs. These initiatives usually create incentives for employees to achieve a specific standard related to their health, such as programs concerning the use of tobacco or programs rewarding employees who achieve a specified health-related goal—reducing cholesterol levels, weight loss, or other healthy lifestyles.

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," HHS said, and "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 starting on or after January 1, 2014.

If you have questions about these new rules for your employees, or need assistance determining the types of insurance required for your business, as well as any other business matters, contact the law firm of BoltNagi PC. BoltNagi PC is one of the largest firms in the United States Virgin Islands and has experienced legal professionals to assist companies based in or seeking to relocate in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  BoltNagi means business!