Tightening the Rules : HIPAA and Wellness Programs
Posted Aug 25 2008 3:24pm
Victoria Knight wrote an illuminating article in today's Wall Street Journal explaining HIPAA and wellness programs . Essentially, plans that penalize unhealthy workers could face tighter restrictions. The rules do not prohibit wellness programs, in fact just the opposite. The rule changes that took place last July were put in place to create a way for companies to have wellness programs that give employees incentives for participating in wellness programs such as screenings, health education seminars, smoking cessation programs etc, without violating HIPAA rules.
The rule clarifications referred to in the WSJ article, apply to certain supplemental health plans that penalize employees for having, for example, high cholesterol or a high BMI. Again, it is worth repeating, the rewarding healthy behaviors rather than penalizing unhealthy behaviors is the best way to avoid not only the legal ramifications, but also the morale, recruitment and retention issues that companies who wield the so called "stick" will face. For an example, read one of my earlier posts.