You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Wellness programs grow more popular with businesses


CATHERINE LUCEY and TOM MURPHY

Associated Press

That little voice nagging you to put down the cake and lace up the running shoes is increasingly coming from your employer and is likely to grow louder with a looming change under the federal health care overhaul.

More companies are starting or expanding wellness programs that aim to reduce their medical costs by improving their employees’ health. They’re asking workers to take physical exams, complete detailed health assessments and focus on controlling conditions such as diabetes. Along with that, many companies also are dangling the threat of higher monthly insurance premiums to prod workers into action.

The Affordable Care Act is one reason the programs are spreading. The federal law calls for a 40 percent tax on expensive benefit plans starting in 2018, and many companies that offer employer-based coverage already have begun looking for ways to lower costs and avoid that tax.

“It is a very powerful … visible wake-up call to all employers,” said Helen Darling, chief executive of the National Business Group on Health, a nonprofit organization that represents large employers on health care issues.

Businesses see wellness programs as a win for themselves and their workers. But studies have shown that the programs have a limited ability to reduce costs. They also raise concerns about privacy and discrimination against older workers or those who are more likely to have chronic conditions.

Penalties also can hit lower-wage workers harder than they would executives because premiums already consume a larger portion of those workers’ paychecks.

“The top-line concern is that it has a huge potential to be discriminatory,” said Lydia Mitts, a health policy analyst with the nonprofit Families USA.

Benefits consultants say federal regulations help guard against that. Companies can be penalized under the overhaul for offering coverage that is considered unaffordable.

Businesses also are required to offer alternatives that help workers avoid penalties like a higher premium because they can’t meet a wellness program goal.

Despite employee concerns, the idea of prevention as a way to reduce health care costs has been largely embraced by employers, who provide the most common form of health insurance in the U.S.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Business

Gmail phishing scam may lead users to give up login info
Gmail phishing scam may lead users to give up login info

A new phishing scam is allowing hackers to gain access to unsuspecting Gmail users' accounts and target their login credentials, according to recent reports. Mark Maunder, CEO of security service Wordfence, described the scam in detail in a blog post, adding that it is also targeting other services beyond Gmail. Tech Times reported that the scam involves...
Millennials spend more on coffee, save less for retirement
Millennials spend more on coffee, save less for retirement

A large number of Millennials spent more on coffee in the past year than they invested in their retirement savings, according to a new study. » RELATED: What makes Millennials tick in the workplace? It may surprise you About 41 percent of the Millennials — ages 18 to 35 — admitted to spending more on coffee than they saved for retirement...
Some worry over impact from health care law repeal
Some worry over impact from health care law repeal

The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday joined the U.S. Senate in passing a budget reconciliation measure that would allow Congress to de-fund key elements of the Affordable Care Act, including tax credit subsidies and federal funding for Medicaid expansion in states like Ohio. While some are rejoicing over the move, replacing President Obama&rsquo...
Will Obamacare repeal leave people in the lurch?
Will Obamacare repeal leave people in the lurch?

As Congress moves forward on a resolution to repeal the Affordable Care Act, experts have warned such a measure could crash the law’s commercial insurance program, jeopardizing coverage for 11.5 million Americans, including more than 230,000 Ohioans. But local industry leaders remain hopeful that congressional Republicans — who are leading...
Holiday retail sales up, but some stores suffering
Holiday retail sales up, but some stores suffering

Retail sales hit about $658 billion for the holiday season, but several chain retailers still announced the closures of hundreds of unprofitable brick-and-mortar stores in January — including several stores locally. “These numbers show that the nation’s slow-but-steady economic recovery is picking up speed and that consumers feel...
More Stories