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Why Legislation Regarding Corporate Wellness is Still Foggy


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, colloquially referred to as Obamacare, has been a major development in adjusting the framework of the United States’ healthcare system. President Obama framed a good portion of his campaign around the issue of healthcare and upon being elected he took action almost immediately.

When the Affordable Care Act was passed, there was national uproar over some statues within the law. The main provision that caused malcontent was the individual mandate, which essentially required anyone who did not receive insurance from his or her employer or from a government aid program to have insurance coverage. Opponents of the law claimed that the individual mandate and the case made it all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where the individual mandate was ruled as constitutional by a vote of 5 to 4.

In the years since this ruling, controversy has been swarming around the employer-based insurance concept and corporate wellness assessment that goes along with this statute. The law contains certain requirements for corporate wellness programs and the main hang up for many opponents of the Affordable Care Act is the inclusion of the word “voluntary” in the language regarding the nature of employer participation in wellness programs. There are many scenarios where employees are fined for not participating in their companies allotted wellness program.

There is also an element of intrusiveness involved here, as employers do not necessarily have the right to inquire regarding an employee’s health status unless it refers to the employee’s performance. There are so many legislative discrepancies that have arisen since the law was passed that the situation has become incredible convoluted. This “voluntary” concept has caused so much outcry on Capitol Hill and has led to so many legal battles that President Obama and the committee members that worked on this Affordable Care Act are recognizing a need for clarity. In the coming weeks, the Obama Administration plans to release new guidelines and redefine the appropriation of the term “voluntary” to certain wellness programs.

With all of this cloudy debate surrounding corporate wellness programs, the necessity for employee participation, and the potential for financial penalties for not participating, there is an unfortunate stigma placed on corporate wellness programs in general. All stakeholders are hoping for a more definitive ruling when the new guidelines are released but until then, many Americans are still puzzled as to what the role of wellness programs in the corporate culture.

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Used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Maryland GovPics

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