How would you like to reduce your company health care costs and get paid for doing it?
The law now authorizes grants totaling $200 million over five years for small companies that start wellness programs focused on efforts such as nutrition, smoking cessation, physical fitness and stress management.
Companies with fewer than 100 employees qualify for the grants, which are administered by the Department of Health and Human Services. However, only new wellness initiatives — those launched after March 23, 2010, the date the Obama health reform bill was enacted — are eligible.
In addition, starting in 2014, employers can offer health insurance coverage reward payments to workers who meet health benchmarks. Some groups see this as a positive while others are concerned about tying financial incentives via insurance discounts to prevention programs. Call it a bribe, perhaps?
Here’s a funny thing about this. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business have generally opposed President Obama's health care reform. On the other hand, labor unions and the AARP have been among the supporters. When it comes to the insurance discount deal though, it’s reversed.
NFIB sees the change as "a positive development," says Amanda Austin, the group's director of federal public policy. "From an employer perspective, there is certainly an interest to be able to incentivize and reward employees for engaging in healthy behaviors."