As 2014 approaches, HR and wellness professionals will need to familiarize themselves with the Affordable Care Act and its implications on wellness. There will be significant changes to the way we look at disease, particularly with regard to disease prevention versus disease management. These changes will also firmly establish wellness as a core component of health care. Although many of the changes are yet to be defined, we do know that several changes going into effect on January 1, 2014 will impact the way we run these programs.
Starting January 1, the ACA will begin to support coverage of many new preventative screenings, tests, and counseling services, as well as some employer wellness programming. This means that biometric tests and additional wellness services may be at least partially funded by the federal government -- and therefore must comply with federal and state guidelines such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, GINA, and HIPAA.
Additionally, we’ll see a change in an employer’s required contribution to health insurance premiums:
- Small businesses (fewer than 25 full-time employees) will be eligible for tax credits to offset healthcare premium costs.
- Medium size businesses (fewer than 50 full-time employees) will be exempt from new employer responsibility policies and costs but will have an opportunity to receive federal grant funding to support wellness programs.
- Larger businesses (more than 50 full-time employees) will be required to pay at least 60% of their employees’ minimal essential coverage. Large businesses who don’t comply with this regulation will be required to pay an annual fine of $2,000 - $3,000 per employee.
Although details regarding the new ACA are still forthcoming, the implication of the law is clear: preventative health is key to reducing health care costs in the long run. Working with an expert third-party wellness vendor is crucial, not only to ensure compliance with federal regulations but to craft a comprehensive wellness strategy that maximizes return on investment.
Given that the average wellness program reduces medical costs $3.27 for every dollar spent, investing in your employees' health is money well spent.