The Supreme Court's Decision in the AARP Case has the threat of ELIMINATING Your Outcomes Based Wellness Incentives...Could this be the END of INCENTIVES WITH ANY REAL TEETH?
With the Supreme Court's decision in January with the AARP v EEOC case, a real threat exists with respect to employers' ability to use outcomes-based incentives in their wellness programs (https://www.sequoia.com/2018/04/eeocs-status-report-aarp-v-eeoc-creates-uncertainty-wellness-programs/). This means that for those of us who use incentives to promote any REAL outcomes that contribute to the bottom line of your healthcare costs (e.g., BMI, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, tobacco use), we may be at risk of losing any real teeth to making a difference.
The US healthcare system - especially the use of health insurance - has become a system of sick care. Health insurance was originally created IN CASE we needed it. The intent was for us to do our part to STAY HEALTHY and the insurance was there in case something happened. Nowadays, we don't take care of ourselves, we don't eat right, we don't exercise, we don't sleep, we are overly stressed, we don't take time for ourselves, we're on the edge all the time...and we wonder why we suffer from massive cases of obesity, diabetes, ulcers, cancers, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and a barrage of other cases. Sure, some things are genetic...and yes, accidents still happen. I'm accounting for that. But the VAST MAJORITY of all cases come from conditions that are PREVENTABLE. Yet we have built a healthcare system that rewards us for doing nothing...and giving us a pill, surgery, therapy, or replacement to fix whatever breaks because we didn't take care of it in the first place.
Those of us who use wellness programs as they are intended use them for good. We use them primarily for 3 reasons...
We reward those who do their part to contribute to the bottom line. If people do the things that help them to stay healthy and keep the costs down, they should be rewarded for their contributions.
We provide employees a way to afford healthcare. In our program, employees can earn up to $1350 for themselves AND their spouse can earn $1350 too (for a total of $2700) in their HSA. This allows them to COMPLETELY COVER THEIR DEDUCTIBLE. We offer a lower cost HSA plan and then give them a way to fully cover the deductible cost.
When people have the money, they get stingy and make better decisions. This drives costs down. As costs go down, they go down for everyone. As a result, in the first two years, we REDUCED EMPLOYEE RATES 25%. This again makes healthcare affordable and puts money in the pockets of employees - which helps them to pay rent and put food on the table.
We believe that Healthcare Reform starts locally. We're doing our part. Now, the EEOC is tasked with re-writing the rules in a way that THREATEN OUR ABILITY TO CONTROL HEALTHCARE COSTS AND HELP EMPLOYEES. I encourage all of you to pay attention to this and contact the EEOC and your representatives to get help. Below is the text from the letter I sent to my representatives. I hope it helps...Let's send the message loud and clear that we're ready to make healthcare reform happen, but we can't do it without the tools. Keep reading for my letter below...
It is my understanding that the EEOC is due to review its rules concerning the use of wellness incentives for employers when using them for healthcare incentives. At Wagstaff, we incorporate substantial wellness incentives as a way to encourage and reward healthy behavior.
We believe that healthcare reform starts at home - with us. The healthier we are, the less "sick care" we will need. Our focus is on prevention, so we provide incentives to those who do their part to contribute to our overall positive outcomes. It also provides working families a resource to FULLY cover their entire deductible as we provide $1350 for the employee AND their spouse (for a total of $2700) by engaging in wellness activities. It is a win-win. As they do more, they get more...and the result? In the first two years of the program, we have (a) collectively saved $2M and (b) have been able to REDUCE EMPLOYEE PREMIUMS by as much as 25%...that's in addition to the $2700!
This works. We've figured it out. However, if the latest Supreme Court decision does what I think it might do, it will only succeed in encouraging the same SICK CARE system that we have created over the past few decades. If the EEOC is required to eliminate my wellness incentives that encourage and reward positive employee behavior that directly contributes to their health, well-being and ability to afford healthcare for their families, we will be right back where we were before.
I am not sure where to go or who to talk to. If there is a way to get the message to those at the EEOC, in Congress, in the White House, and even the Supreme Court that we are actively working AT THE LOCAL LEVEL to deal with the health care crisis by MOTIVATING THE HEALTHY PEOPLE TO STAY HEALTHY and providing the resources to others to get the help they need to become healthy, I would appreciate it.
I would be more than willing to assist and provide more information to help them understand. In fact, I just returned from the National Conference for the Society for Human Resource Management where I addressed my colleagues about this very subject. This had great interest as we discussed Wagstaff's approach and alternative strategies to help employees stay healthy, save money, and combat the high costs of health care. I would be more than happy to assist those at the state and federal level to understand what we are doing. Changing the law to protect the "fat and happy" because they are uncomfortable with doing their part to be part of the change is at the core of our healthcare crisis. Something must be done to PROTECT OUR CURRENT RIGHTS as an employer to HELP OUR EMPLOYEES to continue to find ways to afford health care. Without this program, and without these incentives, we will be right back to where we were.
I look forward to your response to know what steps might be taken to get the message to the powers that be.
Dr. Wade M. Larson