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Media Advisory

For Immediate Release: May 29, 2013
Contact: Laura McGinnis
Phone: 202-693-4653
Email: mcginnis.laura.k@dol.gov
Release Number: 13-1079-NAT

Obama administration continues moving forward to implement health care law by releasing final rules on employment-based wellness programs

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury today issued final rules on employment-based wellness programs. The final rules support workplace health promotion and prevention as a means to reduce the burden of chronic illness, improve health and limit growth of health care costs, while ensuring that individuals are protected from unfair underwriting practices that could otherwise reduce benefits based on health status.

The final rules continue to support participatory wellness programs, which generally are available without regard to an individual's health status. These include programs that reimburse for the cost of membership in a fitness center; that provide a reward to employees for attending a monthly, no-cost health education seminar; or that reward employees who complete a health risk assessment, without requiring them to take further action.

The rules also outline standards for nondiscriminatory health-contingent wellness programs, which generally reward individuals who meet a specific standard related to their health. Examples of health-contingent wellness programs include programs that provide a reward to those who do not use, or decrease their use of, tobacco, or programs that reward those who achieve a specified health-related goal, such as a specified cholesterol level, weight, or body mass index, as well as those who fail to meet such goals but take certain other healthy actions.

Today's final rules ensure flexibility for employers by increasing the maximum reward that may be offered under appropriately designed wellness programs, including outcome-based programs. The final rules also protect consumers by requiring that health-contingent wellness programs be reasonably designed, are uniformly available to all similarly situated individuals and accommodate recommendations made at any time by an individual's physician, based on medical appropriateness.

The final rules will be effective for plan years beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2014.

The rule was issued May 29. To view the final rules, visit http://www.dol.gov/ebsa.

U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille, audio tape or disc from the COAST office upon request by calling 202-693-7828 or TTY 202-693-7755.