Press Release

Embargoed Until Contact

May 10, 2012

Sue Ducat
Director of Communications
(301) 841-9962


Workplace Wellness Benefits


Bethesda, MD --A new Health Policy Brief from Health Affairs and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines trends in workplace wellness programs and the potential impact of provisions of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. About two-thirds of companies that offer health benefits to workers also provide a wellness program, such as health-risk assessments and screenings for high blood pressure and cholesterol, tobacco cessation, and weight management.


In 2014 a provision of the Affordable Care Act will expand employers' ability to reward employees who meet health status goals by participating in wellness programs. In effect, that will mean employees who don't achieve those goals may have to pay more than others for their employer-sponsored health coverage.

This policy brief explains trends in wellness programs, details changes in the law, and highlights issues to watch. Some of the points covered include:


  • What's in the law? Some wellness programs reward participants for meeting a health goal, such as smoking cessation; others may impose penalties in the form of premium surcharges on those who do not meet program requirements. The Affordable Care Act will increase the permissible employee rewards for participation--and maximum surcharge for failing to do so--from 20 to 30 percent of the total cost of health benefits.

  • What are the concerns? Many employers want employees to bear responsibility for their health behavior and not cause costs to go up for all workers because of preventable health conditions. But many employees and consumer advocates fear that sicker employees will end up bearing the costs through higher premiums. There are also concerns that by instituting programs designed to alter employees' behavior, employers may be encroaching on employee privacy zones.
About Health Affairs

Health Affairs is the leading journal at the intersection of health, health care, and policy. Published by Project HOPE, the peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published periodically and health policy briefs published twice monthly at Read daily perspectives on Health Affairs Blog. Download weekly Narrative Matters podcasts on iTunes.