Affordable Care Act to Revive Corporate Wellness Program Momentum

by: Nichole Gunn August 16, 2011

The government knows the importance of health and wellness programs and is putting that knowledge into practice. A recent announcement from the United States Department of Health & Human Services reveals that a feature of the Affordable Care Act will be to make funds in the amount of $10 million accessible to aid companies in the implementation of employee wellness programs.

The program will help about 100 businesses throughout seven U.S. regions to offer a comprehensive wellness initiative. These programs are intended to enhance employees’ health, along with decreasing business healthcare costs.

A type of lottery will be designed, and employers will be picked from a group of applicants. There are several factors leading to eligibility: a team spirit affording collaboration with other regional participants, baseline data, and support from company leaders. Companies that have existing corporate health programs are not eligible to participate. Another element in the mix is for businesses with over 500 full-time workers; to be considered, it will be necessary for them to kick-in matching funds of $50,000.

For long-term projection, the Affordable Care Act expects to give $200 million in comprehensive wellness program funding.

Organizations and municipalities across the nation are looking to initiate or enhance employee health programs. According to WITI-TV, Milwaukee just took the plunge and implemented its own program. Of eligible employees, almost 90 percent enrolled in the program; the incentive that helped entice so many participants was a payment reduction for insurance.

Employees interested in the program were required to complete an online questionnaire; questions included information about their present lifestyle and health. They were also required to participate in a series of baseline analysis tests, along with visiting a healthcare advisor to receive lifestyle improvement recommendations based on the questionnaire and test results.

Mayor of Milwaukee Tom Barrett explained the preliminary screenings demonstrated that many workers dealt with obesity. And one worker who chose to participate in the testing discovered she had a life-threatening illness. “We had, for example, an employee who in the course of this analysis learned that [he] had pancreatic cancer.” This knowledge afforded the worker the opportunity to seek medical help and treatment.

Corporate health and wellness programs are an effective strategy for employers to incorporate to help reduce healthcare expenses, while maintaining employee benefits, according to a number of studies. However, the Society for Human Resource Management latest study demonstrates that the number of employers providing these programs has reached a plateau of about 59 percent. This is the fifth consecutive year reflecting this stalled momentum. The Affordable Care Act is intended to rectify this situation.


About Nichole Gunn

Nichole Gunn is the VP of Marketing at Incentive Solutions, an Atlanta-based incentive company that delivers advanced, agile B2B customer loyalty and channel sales incentives programs.