Numerous articles have reported that a recent bill passed by the House Education and Workforce Committee – the Preserving Employee Wellness Plans Act (H.R. 1313) – would allow employers to obtain genetic information about their employees which had not previously been accessible.
This is simply untrue.
What this bill actually does is establish a single rule that would provide employees protection while giving employers certainty that they are offering legally-compliant wellness programs. According to the House Education and Workforce Committee, the bill would “reaffirm existing law to allow employee wellness programs to be tied to responsible financial incentives.”
The bill does not offer new opportunity for employers to access employee’s private health or genetic medical information. Employers can already offer incentives to employees, on a voluntary basis, to engage in medical testing, health risk assessments or biometric screenings to receive a wellness incentive.
Wellness programs have been subject to federal regulation since the 1990s on account of the HIPAA wellness rules, which included rules that prohibited discrimination due to health status. Those rules were modified and strengthened under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Last year the EEOC issued new regulations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA) that were intended to further strengthen employee protections but ended up causing further confusion. These additional rules are difficult to mesh with existing rules and create a concern about compliance. For full details, read our Alert from last year.
Looking back, it’s easy to see why a single, less complex rule could be helpful. The Preserving Employee Wellness Plans Act attempts to do just that.
Have additional questions about the Preserving Employee Wellness Plans Act or other compliance issues? Please feel free to comment below, and, as always, contact your Lockton Account team.