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Wellness Programs Get Booster Shot from Feds

With some recent proposed rules, federal agencies should make it easier for employers to get serious about wellness in the quest to cut healthcare costs.

By Tom Starner

Thanks to the latest federally issued healthcare-reform guidelines, wellness in the American workplace should end up getting a welcomed booster shot in 2014 and beyond.

Even with that positive news, however, experts say the next two years remain full of uncertainty and complexity, warning employers and HR executives to stay focused as the Affordable Care Act continues to unfold bit by bit.

Specifically on the wellness front, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor and the Treasury Department in late November jointly released proposed rules for employer-based wellness incentives, which would apply to plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014.

The proposal, which increases the caps on employee incentives, should result in a positive impact for employers who either already are serious or are thinking about getting serious with their wellness-program strategies, according to experts.

In 2014, according to a government fact sheet, the proposed maximum financial incentive for “standards-based” wellness programs (those that have metrics or specific goals attached) will jump from the current 20 percent to 30 percent of the cost of coverage. Also, the maximum incentive for wellness programs designed with . . Click here to continue