Wellness programs are an increasingly popular way for employers to encourage their workforce to pursue a healthier lifestyle. Partly because of their rising popularity, various rules have developed in recent years to ensure wellness participants are treated fairly. Two sets of rules were released by the EEOC in May 2016 and became effective for plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2017. These rules warrant further discussion for employers and benefit brokers in light of key compliance issues we are seeing.

EEOC — ADA regulations One set of rules explains what constitutes a “voluntary” program under the Americans with Disabilities Act and applies to any wellness program that includes disability-related inquiries or medical examinations. The ADA regulations contained much of what was to be expected regarding confidentiality of health information and reasonable design parameters; and much attention has been drawn to the incentive limitations that are more restrictive than those under other wellness rules. However, what is often overlooked are the new notice requirements and clarification on prohibited retaliatory action.

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