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National Restaurant Association - HHS releases final rule on employer wellness programs

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HHS releases final rule on employer wellness programs

The Department of Health and Human Services has released its final rule on incentives that can be offered to employees who participate in wellness programs that are offered as part of an employer’s group health plan.

Notable in the final rule is the increase in the maximum allowed discount that can be offered to employees who participate in wellness programs—which give employees incentives for meeting health or fitness goals or participating in other activities that promote health—from 20 percent to 30 percent of the employee’s health coverage cost. For employees who participate in activities aimed at curbing or preventing tobacco use, the discount can be as high as 50 percent. The rule also includes guidance on the requirements a wellness program must meet to be considered nondiscriminatory.

The final HHS rule is part of regulations issued to implement the 2010 health care law. The rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register June 3. It will take effect 60 days after publication.

A proposed rule published by the Treasury Department on May 3 contains the formula employers who offer wellness plans can use to determine whether their coverage meets the “minimum value” and affordability standards under the 2010 health care law. Employers with 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees face possible penalties starting in 2014 if they fail to offer coverage that meets certain standards for value and affordability.  

Through the two sets of regulations, employers now have the rules by which to offer wellness programs as well as how to count them towards minimum value and affordability under the employer mandate.

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