Final EEOC Rule Sets Limits For Financial Incentives On Wellness Programs

05.17.2016 - Workplace Issues

Employers seeking to get workers to join wellness programs and provide medical information can set financial rewards – or penalties – of up to 30 percent of the cost for an individual in the company’s health insurance plan, according to controversial rules finalized by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Monday.

Although such penalties or incentives could run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, the programs are considered voluntary — and therefore legal, the commission said.

The rules seek to ensure “wellness programs actually promote good health and are not just used to collect or sell sensitive medical information about employees and family members or to impermissibly shift health insurance costs to them,” the EEOC said.
But the final rules drew immediate concern from some groups.

Jennifer Mathis, director of programs for the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, says the new rule rolls back protections in existing law.

“Voluntary inquiries can now come with steep financial penalties, according to the EEOC, for choosing not to answer,” she said. “That’s a troubling precedent for the application of civil rights laws.”

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