Are wellness programs too risky for small businesses?

Columbus Chamber
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Columbus, Ohio (April 8, 2019)—As temperatures heat up, employees are looking for ways to get healthy. Work places are challenged to offer wellness programs, but are concerned with the realities behind these programs.

The federal laws surrounding work place wellness programs changed Jan. 1 to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. For years, wellness programs adhered to guidelines set forth by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that included nondiscrimination standards and financial incentives. However, a judge ended those standards late last year and moved to ensure wellness programs protect employees’ medical history and are aligned with ADA regulations.

“Wellness is one of those things where there’s a benefit, but there’s also a cost,” Jay Hazelbaker, CEO of TAH Benefits, said. “If they’re doing a business program for camaraderie or team building or to make the work place more active, it can be done easily. They run into problems when an employer wants offer financial incentives.”

For example, Hazelbaker explained that the Affordable Care Act allows health insurers to charge smokers more for insurance, but legal issues around discrimination caused many carriers to opt out of the provision.

Brett Cuthbert, one of three owners of the family-run Cuthbert’s Greenhouse in Groveport, weighed the option of offering a wellness program for his employees.

“We considered it for the well-being and health of our employees,” he said. “It’s more preventative than anything.”

Cuthbert’s Greenhouse employs between 30 and 45 full-time and part-time workers, depending on the season.

Small businesses with fewer than 50 employees might also find wellness programs to be cost prohibitive because of the time and energy they require to create and legally maintain. Hazelbaker notes they may find more success with wellness efforts through incentives of paid time off or gift cards to local stores, rather than decreases in health insurance costs to employees.

“Wellness programs should be more about rewarding people for participating, not tying it to premiums or [gym] memberships,” Hazelbaker said.

About Tabit, Arganbright, & Hazelbaker Inc.
TAH Benefits is an insurance firm that provides benefit planning and coverage for businesses and individuals. For over 40 years, TAH Benefits has served their clients with comprehensive benefits and affordable healthcare options. Their skilled professionals make the process of finding the best policies easy while maintaining plan compliance along the way.  For more information please visit: