Wellness Programs and the Affordable Care Act


Wellness Programs and the Affordable Care Act

The primary goal of corporate wellness programs is for employees to become healthier. Healthier employees spend less for medical care - doctors, hospitals and prescription drugs – and that helps to reduce health insurance costs for employers.

A growing number of companies also are implementing wellness programs as a direct response to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under ACA, employers may establish certain wellness incentives of up to 30 percent of the total cost of medical coverage (including both employer and employee contributions) or up to 50 percent for wellness incentives specifically to prevent or reduce tobacco use. ACA also promotes other wellness-based initiatives such as preventive care services including free annual physicals, free well-woman care and free well-child care and immunizations. 

Tips for implementing wellness

There are many different approaches to introducing wellness into the workplace. It is a strategic investment and should be part of a company’s overall business plan. Most employers offer wellness benefits through their group health plans to plan members. Others offer wellness programs to all employees through a third-party provider.   

The good news is that even if a company is not in a financial position to implement a comprehensive wellness program just yet, there are many small steps an organization can take towards building a wellness culture.

Simply replacing the items available in the office “snack machines” with healthier choices or organizing employees to walk/run to raise money for a health-related charity can send a signal that wellness is important to the company. A business can also “test-drive” one component of a wellness program, such as offering a free health screening to employees on-site to measure overall interest and participation rates.

Here are some other simple ideas to bring a company closer to a wellness culture:

  • Promote preventive care. Make sure employees know what preventive care benefits are available to them through their current health plan. Remind employees to get their annual physical.

  • Encourage exercise. Organize and promote a lunch hour “walking club” and offer incentives for employees who participate, such as a wearable activity tracker like a Fitbit. Make employees aware of gym membership discounts that may already be available through their health plan and encourage them to sign-up.

  • Emphasize education. Host healthy brown bag luncheons to entice employees to learn more about healthy habits. Recruit speakers from your community to lead sessions on building awareness of mental health issues, or to learn about the latest technology to help stay fit, or methods to reduce stress.

The wellness landscape is changing daily. Employers should research the options by seeking guidance from Engage. We have multiple wellness programs and initiatives that can be implemented and offer comprehensive ACA compliance/reporting services to clients.


Minimum Wage Changes in 2018

A number of states and local jurisdictions will raise their minimum wage in 2018. See the latest information on upcoming changes across the country.


What Employers Should Know About the Latest Health Care Reform Actions

President Trump’s recent executive order on health care was aimed at increasing competition and lowering consumer costs in the health insurance markets. Specifically, the order directs three federal agencies to consider proposing new rules that would allow the sale of low-cost, short-term insurance; expand the use of health reimbursement accounts; and lift some of the restrictions on association health plans.

It’s unclear, as of this writing, how or when these proposed actions will change health care laws. The bottom line for employers and individuals, however, is that no laws have been changed yet. The order itself has no force of law, and issuing new regulations typically takes at least several months, plus what can be a lengthy and contentious period for public comment.

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