Wellness incentives: EEOC rules change could add clarity

  A rule proposed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) would allow companies to collect some health information about the spouses of employees who are participating in their spouse's employer-provided wellness programs.

The proposed rule, which was released by the EEOC in late October, would permit firms to offer incentives of up to 30 percent of a wellness program’s value to participants who reach certain goals.

The rule change would alter Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). As the EEOC noted in October, the passage of GINA stems from fears that genetic testing could be used to discriminate against individuals in matters of insurance and employment, among other issues. GINA also strictly limits the kind of genetic information that companies can compel individuals to provide.

Under the proposal, employers would be able to “request, require, or purchase genetic information as part of health or genetic services” within a qualifying wellness program “reasonably designed to promote health or prevent disease.” However, as the rule is written, the requests are confined only to employee participants and their spouses in wellness programs. Companies would not be able to provide financial inducements for employees and/or spouses to provide genetic information. Furthermore, an employee and/or spouse’s family medical history remain off-limits to employers, as does the medical history of an employee and/or spouse’s children.

With wellness programs now entrenched in many firms as major parts of employer-sponsored health care, the EEOC’s proposed rules change could have a material impact on companies and their workers. If you would like more information on how this proposed rule could affect your wellness program, or have any other insurance-related questions, please call 847.307.6100 (Chicago) or 972-770-5010 (Dallas / Oklahoma City) to speak to a Plexus client representative, or visit us on the web at plexusgroupe.com.

References Federal Register, Vol. 80, No. 210.” Proposed rule: Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 29 CFR, Part 1635, October 30, 2015. “Questions and Answers: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act and Incentives in Employer Wellness Programs for Employees' Spouses to Provide Their Current or Past Health Status Information.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2015.