A wellness program is an organized program intended to assist employees and family members in making voluntary behavior changes that reduce their health risks and enhance their individual productivity. Wellness programs vary widely in design and may offer opportunities or incentives for improving health and wellness, such as increasing fitness, losing weight, managing chronic health conditions or quitting smoking.

Why Offer a Wellness Program?

Investing in a wellness program may save money over time by reducing health care costs. Plan sponsors will have to determine whether the value expected to be derived from offering a wellness program is worth the cost. Depending on the scope of the program, it can be a relatively low-cost way to encourage healthy behaviors among participants.

What Legal Issues Are Involved With a Wellness Program?

Wellness programs must be carefully structured to comply with both state and federal law. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) (as amended by the Affordable Care Act), the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) and state discrimination laws will all impact the design of a wellness program. How state and federal laws apply to an employer’s wellness program is highly fact-specific and depends on the structure of each wellness program. Because of the potential risks of noncompliance, employers should have their legal counsel review wellness programs before the programs are introduced to employees.

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