House Legislation Seeks to Harmonize Wellness Programs with ADA and GINA
On March 2, 2017, in an attempt to clear the murky waters surrounding wellness programs, Rep. Virginia Foxx, chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, introduced the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act (the “Act’) (H.R. 1313). In an effort to protect wellness plans, the Act reaffirms existing law which permits employee wellness programs to be linked to financial incentives.
In introducing this legislation, Rep. Foxx recognized the importance of wellness programs to employers and employees. Wellness programs assist employers in containing health care related costs by having a healthier workforce and provides employees with financial incentives to live healthier lives. However, the issue of financial incentives, acquiescence to submit to medical examinations, and disclosure of family health histories has long been the subject of litigation between employers and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). These issues were further complicated by the EEOC’s regulations in May 2016 regarding wellness programs and the American with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. These regulations are the subject of additional litigation. See AARP Suffers a Setback in its Challenge to the EEOC’s Wellness Regulations; EEOC’s 2016 Wellness Program Regulations, The Saga Continues…
According to Rep. Foxx, this Act would bring “uniformity to the regulation of wellness programs and clarify that such programs are consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.” According to the Education and the Workforce Fact Sheet, the Act would “protect employee wellness plans by eliminating red tape, reassert congressional intent by encouraging the implementation of employee wellness programs, which in turn encourages lower heath care costs and promotes a healthy workforce.”