House Dems press HHS for changes in wellness rules

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For example, they said they support incentives to quit smoking or join a gym, but aren't comfortable with incentives that are tied to a certain health conditions, such as blood pressure or weight.

They say those programs could contradict a major goal of the Affordable Care Act — limiting discrimination based on health status. The law bans insurance companies from denying coverage based on a pre-existing condition, and it limits insurers' ability to charge higher premiums based on health status.

Wellness programs based on existing health could be a back door toward evading those limits, the Democratic lawmakers wrote in a letter to HHS.

"Employer wellness programs can help provide the tools necessary for greater individual responsibility over one's health and improve health outcomes ... Unfortunately, they may also lead to undesired results such as undermining the risk pooling in group health plans, or making group coverage harder to access for older and sicker individuals," they wrote.

The top Democrats on the three House committees with jurisdiction over healthcare programs, as well as the top Democrats on each panel's health subcommittee, signed the letter.

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