The regulations will provide insurance incentives for employees who join programs to make themselves healthier – including smoking-cessation or weight-loss plans. It could also tie some benefits to overall health factors, such as low blood pressure or weight.
Gary Loveman, the chair of Business Roundtable’s health and retirement committee, wrote that he feared that changes in the final rule – which is undergoing review at the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) – could undo incentives for enrolment in the programs.
“Wellness programs work. They lower health care costs by keeping workers and their families healthier. In my own company, Caesars Entertainment, we have seen wellness program participants, on average, lower their blood pressure by 7 points, reduce total cholesterol by 11 points, and improve their cholesterol ratio by 9 points over a three-year period,” he said in a letter sent last week. “These are stunning results that make a real difference in people’s lives. And they are not unique to Caesars. Many of my colleagues are seeing similar results.”
In January, House Democrats lobbied the administration to nix the language that called for the reward programs tied to certain health favtors, saying it went against the spirit of the Affordable Care Act itself, by denying equal coverage based on pre-existing conditions or health status.
The final draft of the rule, officially called “Incentives for Nondiscriminatory Wellness Programs in Group Health Plans,” landed at the White House late last month. OIRA has 90 days to approve it or send it back to the agency.