Working on Wellness Incentives in Obamacare

November 5, 2012 — Last week, representatives of leading obesity organizations (TOS, OAC, ASBP and ASMBS) participated in a meeting coordinated by Families USA with senior White House staff and leadership from the Departments of Labor, Treasury, and Health and Human Services (HHS) to discuss employer wellness incentive programs that address obesity. 

Advocates in the meeting highlighted recent recommendations included in a consensus statement published by AHA, ADA, ACS, CAN, HERO, and ACOEM in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. The consensus identifies a number of critical issues, including:

  • Penalties for people with obesity may amount to discrimination
  • Worksite culture plays a key role in promoting wellness
  • Access to care for these conditions is essential
  • There’s no evidence that outcome incentives really work

The Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) includes provisions that allows employers to incorporate financial wellness incentives into health plans. The officials in this meeting are preparing to publish rules for implementing those provisions.

Issues related to wellness incentives and obesity comprised a major portion of the discussion. TOS Advocacy Committee Chair, Ted Kyle spoke for the obesity community, outlining what works, and what doesn’t work with regard to employer wellness incentive programs that address obesity. Obesity advocates urged policymakers to, at a minimum, ensure parity in coverage for obesity treatments compared to treatments for other conditions addressed in wellness programs, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking cessation. Obesity advocates are preparing a follow-up letter to Treasury, Labor, and HHS summarizing concerns and providing further documentation.

Read the JOEM Consensus Statement here.

Read more about issues related to wellness incentives here.