The Impact of Obamacare on Corporate Wellness Programs
Greg Justice, MA
Healthcare in general has been an issue that has been widely discussed in recent years. When Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA), took effect there were many people looking in different directions to see what the impact would be. Those companies that have engaged in corporate wellness programs were also particularly interested in seeing how their efforts would be impacted. While some business leaders may not be thrilled with the ACA for various reasons, there is some good that comes out of it for those with corporate wellness programs.
A Look at the Affordable Care Act
The ACA, which most people are familiar with at this point, is legislation enacted by the government that made changes to healthcare in the United States. Implemented by President Barack Obama, which is why it was deemed “Obamacare,” the law aims to help consumers become more in charge of their healthcare, by helping them make informed choices, having more access to coverage, and making it unlawful for coverage to be denied based one’s current or past health status, among other key points. The ACA also has a mission of getting more people signed up for healthcare insurance, by mandating certain businesses provide health insurance, and fining individuals who choose to not get insurance.
The ACA had a both positive and negative impact on businesses with a corporate wellness program in place. Although businesses with over 50 full time employees were mandated to provide healthcare coverage for them, they were also able to provide more incentives and penalties through their corporate wellness program. The trade-off may end up being enough to help employers balance out the costs of providing healthcare some.
How it Helps
Corporate wellness programs have been popular among larger companies for quite some time. But when the new legislation took place it gave companies more advantages in how they run their program. Now, companies can provide more incentives for people being in health and wellness programs in the company, as well as penalize them more if they are not successful in them. For example, wellness programs may aim to get employees healthier by giving them specific goals about their cholesterol levels or weight management.
If the employees are able to maintain the goals that have been established, the company can provide them with monetary incentives, such as reduced rates on their monthly healthcare premiums. But if they are not successful they can likewise be penalized and have to pay more. Those who are successful at achieving and maintaining their wellness goals are going to be far better off when it comes not only to their health, but to their pocketbook. Some people are reportedly saving up to half of their monthly insurance premiums by being successful in their corporate wellness programs.
The drawback to the new legislation giving employers more playing room in providing bigger incentives and penalties is where employees as an individual is concerned. Some people, even taking into consideration their genetics, may be at a disadvantage when it comes to being able to achieve some wellness goals realistically. Furthermore, those who are not able to achieve their wellness goals will not only likely be unhealthier than their counterparts, but they will also take a financial hit. Some of these employees may be living paycheck to paycheck, and losing more money to healthcare premiums can have a major impact on their ability to survive financially. Despite the best intentions of a corporate wellness program, there will always be some employees who may not be able to reach the goals, for whatever reason. Furthermore, many people have issues with legislation that forces them to get healthy or penalizes them for not doing so.
As we all know, the ideas of meeting health goals may not be quite as easy as they sound. Whether it’s meeting ideal cholesterol levels, smoking cessation, or reducing one’s body mass index, it can be challenging. Some people may never be able to meet those goals, even being in a corporate wellness program where they are learning about tools to help them. Yet being financially penalized will be a double whammy of sorts.
In the end, those employees who comply and are able to take advantage of corporate wellness programs will reap the incentives and be able to cash in. They may get everything from reduced insurance premiums to cash incentives or other perks.
Worse or Better
Many people wonder whether Obamacare has created a worse or better atmosphere for those running corporate wellness programs. While there may be many detractors when it comes to Obamacare overall, this may not be the bottom line when it comes to corporate wellness. The guidelines allow those in corporate wellness to have more control over the way they run their program when it comes to incentives and penalties, thus making it a helpful addition.
Another important way that Obamacare has helped make corporate wellness better is in the money that it can potentially save corporations. By offering a corporate wellness program, they are giving employees the chance the lower monthly premiums by getting healthier, which will help the company save money and be able to negotiate better rates with insurance providers. For those corporations with thousands of employees, this can amount to major savings annually.
Considering their Success
The answer to whether or not corporate wellness programs actually work has been answered, even by the government. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), corporate wellness programs are cost-beneficial to companies, saving them money in healthcare expenditures, as well as providing a positive return on company investment.
The ROI that a company gets is one that many are not aware of at the outset, but once they learn of what it can do for the company financially they are more on board. It’s estimated that for every dollar the company spends on corporate wellness, it will save $3 overall in other areas of spending. That incentive alone makes corporate wellness programs a success from the standpoint of the business.
In addition to saving on insurance costs, there are other benefits that are at play when it comes to the positives of having a corporate wellness program. When a company helps motivate its employees to get well, and the employees are successful in meeting their wellness goals, they will become healthier and end up not missing as much work. Employees who are well and don’t miss a lot of work will provide better productivity and help create a better workplace atmosphere.
Additionally, research has shown that when polling employees, those who have a successful and active corporate wellness program in place are happier. Those employees who are able to take advantage of a corporate wellness program report that they are more satisfied with their place of employment than those who do not have access to such a program. Not only is a corporate wellness program successful in helping businesses to save money, and employees to get healthier, but it also helps to improve workplace satisfaction. That’s a win-win situation for everyone.
What CEOs Say
Those in business monitoring the headlines regarding this issue will find that opinions vary when it comes to feedback from those who run businesses. While on the one hand they don’t care for the legislation that makes them offer full-time employees healthcare, they do like the advantages that the legislation affords them when it comes to their corporate wellness program.
The CEO of Carl’s Jr. fast food chain, for example, has said that Obamacare has caused millions of full-time jobs to become part-time ones, so employers can duck the law, since it applies to full time workers. Meanwhile, the CEO of Starbucks has announced that the new healthcare legislation will not change the way the popular chain cares for their employees. He explains that they already provide healthcare for their part time employees and have no plans to make any cuts in benefits or hours for their employees. Another CEO to make headlines over the issue is Papa John’s, who has been quoted as saying pizzas prices will have to be increased in order to make up for the increased costs required by Obamacare
When it comes to the positives and negatives of Obamacare or a corporate wellness program, opinions may vary. But when it comes down to it, there are a lot of benefits to having a good corporate wellness program in place. Companies will save money in the long haul, they will have healthier employees, and they will get more productivity from them. Healthier employees will keep more money in their own pocket by taking advantage of the incentives, they will be healthier in their lives, and they will have more job satisfaction. Corporate wellness programs provide an advantage and cost-savings benefit that few other options can top.
About the Author
Greg Justice, MA owner of AYC Health & Fitness, Kansas City’s Original Personal Training Center and founder of Corporate Boot Camp System has been actively involved in the fitness industry since the early ‘80s. His growing network of Trainers spans 9 countries, 45 states, and 6 Canadian Provinces, helping fill the gap in corporate wellness with on-site workplace exercise programs. Speaker, author, and coach, Greg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bloomberg Business. Will workplace wellness screenings under Obamacare improve health? <http://www.bloomberg.com/bw/articles/2013-05-16/will-workplace-wellness-screenings-under-obamacare-improve-health>
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing Chronic Disease. <http://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues/2012/12_0092.htm>
Diversity Inc. Papa Johns CEO. <http://www.diversityinc.com/leadership/papa-johns-ceo-blames-obamacare-for-cutting-workers-hours/>
Forbes. Obamacare’s wellness rules will bring more worker penalties. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2013/06/01/obamacares-wellness-rules-will-bring-more-worker-penalties/>
Forbes. New Obamacare rules offer big gains for employees. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesleadershipforum/2012/12/07/new-obamacare-rules-offer-big-gains-for-employers/>
Institute for Healthcare Consumerism. The impact of wellness programs on America’s workforce. <http://www.theihcc.com/en/media_center/editors_picks/the-impact-of-wellness-programs-on-america%E2%80%99s-workf_h2jeegra.html>
Polifact. CEO of Carl’s Junior. <http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2015/jan/23/andy-puzder/ceo-carls-jr-says-obamacare-has-caused-millions-fu/>
Triplepundit. Starbucks CEO. <http://www.triplepundit.com/2013/08/starbucks-ceo-affordable-care-act-excuse-cut-benefits/>