Compliance Date Approaching for Employer-sponsored Wellness Programs

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In May 2016, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) finalized rules for employer-sponsored wellness programs under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
Some provisions of the rules become effective Jan. 1, 2017, for calendar year plans, while others are clarifications of existing requirements.
In general, the ADA and GINA prohibit discrimination based on disability and genetic information. The EEOC rules provide guidance on how employers can structure their wellness programs to comply with the ADA and GINA in a way that is consistent with the rules for wellness programs under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Incentives
The final ADA rule clarifies the extent to which employers can offer incentives to employees for participating in wellness programs that ask them to answer questions related to disability or to undergo medical examination.
The final GINA rule explains that an employer may offer a limited incentive for an employee’s spouse to provide information about the spouse’s health status as part of a voluntary wellness program.

Program Design
Under the ADA, a wellness program must be voluntary. The ADA rule provides clarification on when participation in a program will be considered voluntary.
Both final rules also require wellness programs to be reasonably designed to promote health and prevent disease.

Confidentiality
Both final rules state that information from wellness programs may be disclosed to employers only in aggregate terms. Also, notice requirements apply under both the ADA and GINA.

Effective Date
The final rules’ incentive limits and notice requirements apply as of the first day of the first plan year that begins on or after Jan. 1, 2017.

Employers should review their wellness programs to determine if any changes should be made to comply with the EEOC’s final rules.

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