The Obama administration recently implemented a rule that gives greater control over employees’ health care. Employers can provide either incentives or penalties based on the lifestyle of who work for them. The effect on premium rates can be worth as high as half of a premium’s cost. According to a May 30, 2013 article from the New York Times, this rule will be implemented to group health insurance that support ‘plan years’ starting on June 1, 2014.
The recent decree is part of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. It further states that health care programs should be free as possible from discrimination between employees based on how healthy they are.
This rule enables employers to carry out health standards for their employees. The latter must meet or even excel in these standards in order to gain extra rewards. Failure to comply will probably result in penalties. For instance, a wellness program may provide incentives to employees who abstain from smoking, or rigorously maintain their ideal body mass index.
In 2006, the highest amount that health care recipients can benefit is 20% of combined employer and employee premiums. With the enactment of the recent rule, the highest possible rate of increase is 50%, and it applies to programs dedicated to reduce employees’ tobacco use.
It is undeniable that certain employees will face limitations with adhering to this new health insurance rule. However, employers must provide ‘substitute’ standards to be fair with employees. Other means of rewards must be offered. For instance, employees with high alcohol intake may be charged with higher cost of premiums. However, if they get involved in campaigns against drunk driving or recovery programs for alcoholics, they have the alternative to pay their premiums with regular price.
As a precaution, this rule does not exempt employers from other laws where they are already involved such as the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.
According to the Labor Department, tens of millions of workers will be affected. They are those who undergo certain programs from their employers in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. They also receive health insurance in the process. These measures are necessary to maintain or even improve their working performance. Sick employees are absent employees, who may affect the productivity of a workplace or company.
This is the reason why wellness programs are popular with employers nowadays. Federal officials stated with confirmation that such programs resulted in healthier employees. However, it will take time to assess and report financial implications.
Critics of this new imposition argue that it may breach the rights and equality of different sectors in the population. Judith Lichtman of the National Partnership of Women and Families mentioned this rule puts older people at a disadvantage compared to younger people. They are prone to health problems attributed with aging. There are also racial minorities who are affected with a higher probability of getting ailments like diabetes and hypertension as compared to the rest of the population.