Over the last decade thousands of employers have implemented worksite biometric screenings to provide their employees with better knowledge of their health status and to be more proactive in preventing serious health conditions from developing. The employee benefits from the convenience of the on-site screenings and the employer has an effective tool to better control group health care costs and to better understand the overall health issues confronting its employee population.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) encouraged these workplace wellness programs and even established safe harbor rules for employers who established incentives within their health plans in order to encourage employee participation. After all, it is an accepted fact that human beings often do not do those things that they should do. Therefore, incentives are often necessary to "nudge" people in the right direction.
Honeywell International, Inc. has implemented a program of biometric screenings in its wellness
programs as has become the norm for many employers today. In fact, it is estimated that as many as half of all employers with 200+ employees now have some type of screening programs in place as result of the provisions of the ACA which encourages the adoption of these wellness and prevention efforts.
This is how Honeywell describes its program as well as the incentive it provides to those employees who participate in the screenings.
Biometric testing provides valuable private information to each employee about potentially life threatening issues. Honeywell wants its employees to be well informed about their health status not only because it promotes their wellbeing, but also because we don’t believe it’s fair to the employees who do work to lead healthier lifestyles to subsidize the healthcare premiums for those who do not. Biometric information will help all employees make healthier decisions. Over 60% of Honeywell biometrics participants have reduced at least one health risk, and encouraging more participation is the right thing to do. For employees with single coverage who voluntarily decide to take a biometric screening, their monthly premiums will be $125 lower than the employees who decide not to take a biometric screening. Biometric results are strictly confidential and not shared with the Company.
You might ask how the EEOC could find any fault with this, especially since this program is in strict compliance with the law and regulations under both the "Affordable Care Act" and the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act" ("HIPAA")?
It seems that the EEOC has decided that the Honeywell wellness program (and by extension all other programs like it) is unlawful because it discriminates under the Americans With Disabilities Act since it "penalizes" employees who do not want to participate in the health screenings.
You might ask how the EEOC can rule that a company is engaging in "unlawful" activity when it is in full compliance with Obamacare and HIPAA?
Because they can. That is what government bureaucracies do. It is because they say it is. It doesn't have to make sense.
The EEOC's actions have gained the attention of The Business Roundtable, a group of large company CEO's, which has a history of being more supportive of Obamacare than most business groups. This Reuters story by Sharon Begley indicates that the CEO's are as confused by the Obama administration's actions as you probably are as well. They don't seem happy with this nonsense.
Leading U.S. CEOs, angered by the Obama administration's challenge to certain "workplace wellness" programs, are threatening to side with anti-Obamacare forces unless the government backs off, according to people familiar with the matter.
Major U.S. corporations have broadly supported President Barack Obama's healthcare reform despite concerns over several of its elements, largely because it included provisions encouraging the wellness programs.
The programs aim to control healthcare costs by reducing smoking, obesity, hypertension and other risk factors that can lead to expensive illnesses. A bipartisan provision in the 2010 healthcare reform law allows employers to reward workers who participate and penalize those who don't.
But recent lawsuits filed by the administration's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), challenging the programs at Honeywell International and two smaller companies, have thrown the future of that part of Obamacare into doubt.
In that article Ms. Begley also has written a sentence that is undoubtedly the most inane statement that I have read during the entire year 2014. I am not certain whether this is the opinion of Ms. Begley or she is merely reporting on what someone from The White House told her. In either case, it is an exceedingly silly and stupid thing to say irrespective of the source, especially when placed into historical context with this President and this White House.
" It is also not clear if the White House can stop the EEOC from challenging wellness programs."
What? It is not clear if the White House can stop the EEOC from doing something?
This is a White House which unilaterally modified, delayed and deferred most of the key provisions of Obamacare from being implemented because it was more concerned about the politics of the issue than "faithfully executing the law". It implemented subsidies for health plans in the federal exchanges in clear contravention of the ACA statute as written. Further, President Obama just granted amnesty to 5 million illegal immigrants in direct violation of federal law.
And it is not clear that the White House can stop the EEOC from challenging wellness programs that are in full compliance with Obamacare and HIPAA?
Are we living in The Twilight Zone?
It actually is worse.
We are living in the Obama Zone.
You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not of facts, truth and the rule of law but of contradictions, prevarications and executive orders. A journey into a wondrous land of political calculation, manipulation and intimidation. Next stop, the Obama Zone!