What is a wellness program?

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A wellness program as defined on the Healthcare.gov website is:

A program intended to improve and promote health and fitness that’s usually offered through the work place, although insurance plans can offer them directly to their enrollees. The program allows your employer or plan to offer you premium discounts, cash rewards, gym memberships, and other incentives to participate. Some examples of wellness programs include programs to help you stop smoking, diabetes management programs, weight loss programs, and preventative health screenings.

Wellness programs are provided to employees as a preventive measure to help avoid illness while improving and maintaining the general health of the employees. This can be accomplished through education, communication and a supportive work environment.

Typical benefits in a wellness program include smoking cessation, weight loss, stress management, company gym/workout rooms, recreational programs such as company-sponsored sports teams, medical screenings and immunization/flu shots. Also included are educational safety and accident prevention programs that provide information and guidance on topics such as back care, cancer prevention and AIDS awareness, as well as proper eating and exercise habits. All of these benefits can be administered within an employer’s employee assistance program or could be stand-alone programs.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) creates new incentives and builds on existing wellness program policies to promote employer wellness programs and encourage opportunities to support healthier workplaces. See this fact sheet on The ACA and Wellness Programs for more information.

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