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Judge Vacates EEOC Wellness Program Rules

01/14/18

  05:09:00 pm, by MedBen5   , 345 words,  
Categories: News, Wellness, Compliance

Judge Vacates EEOC Wellness Program Rules

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“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”

Ben Franklin’s words ring true for those still struggling with the EEOC’s workplace wellness incentive rules. The EEOC’s May 2016 final rules outline how employers are permitted to offer wellness program incentives to employees and when those programs are considered voluntary. The rules were complex and often difficult to reconcile with the less complicated HIPAA wellness rules (which were in effect at the time and remain in effect today). However, in December 2017, a Washington D.C. Federal Judge vacated the EEOC rules in response to a lawsuit brought by the AARP (AARP v. EEOC, D.D.C. 1:16-cv-02113).

Judge John Bates’ ruling sides with the AARP, which has argued that the EEOC's wellness incentive rules (permitting health plans to include incentive penalties of up to 30% of the cost of coverage) are not a sufficient remedy for categorizing the wellness programs as voluntary.

But before running out to change your wellness program you should know two things about the Judge’s order. First, the Judge vacated the current EEOC wellness program rules – but not until January 1, 2019. The Judge reasoned that employers wouldn’t have sufficient time to re-design their plans for 2018 (“on they fly” as described by the Judge). Second, the Judge ordered the EEOC back to the drawing board, requiring that the Agency propose new rules by August 31, 2018. The EEOC must provide a reasoned explanation for considering workplace wellness programs voluntary even if those programs apply penalties.

What does this mean for your wellness program? It means that everything stays the same until it changes. That could be in the Fall of 2018 or in January 2019. Either way, it is important to note that none of this means making changes now and that any future changes may be ones we haven’t even imagined yet. So like Ben says, we’re not finished changing until we’re finished!

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the EEOC’s wellness program rules, the HIPAA wellness program rules, or any other aspect of wellness program design, feel free to contact MedBen Vice President of Compliance Caroline Fraker at 800-851-0907 or cfraker@medben.com.

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