Employer wellness programs fall under scrutiny

Dec 3, 2014 | Healthcare Industry News

With the rising cost of health care in recent years, many employers have pursued novel solutions to help manage their expenses. One of these strategies is to offer high-deductible insurance plans, which leave the employee responsible for a larger portion of the cost of care. Another is offering wellness programs, intended to help keep employees healthy and active, therefore reducing potential future medical costs. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently cast a shadow over these programs by filing a lawsuit against Honeywell International, claiming that the programs the organization offered were not voluntary, and therefore violated federal law. 

Health screenings, including the measurement of blood pressure, cholesterol and body mass index are commonly incorporated into employer wellness programs so they can have a reference baseline to measure employee progress and return on investment. However, the EEOC felt that Honeywell asking its employees and their spouses to undergo these tests or be subject to a $500 surcharge on health insurance. Those that refuses the tests could also lose up to $1,500 in Honeywell contributions to their health savings account.

"Under the [Americans with Disabilities Act], medical testing of this nature has to be voluntary," the EEOC said in a press release. "The employer cannot require it or penalize employees who decide not to go through with it."

Wellness programs are an important and popular means to help the workforce focus on managing their health. Because many workers live a sedentary lifestyle, sitting at their desk all day and relaxing on the couch at night, they are at increased risk of certain medical conditions, including heart disease and diabetes. 

If employers cease offering these programs, care facilities could see an increase in patients being unprepared for their medical expenses. If this is the result at your facility, the decision to outsource receivables management can help maintain cash flow.