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Finalized Privacy Rules for Employer Wellness Programs

privacy rules for employer wellness

Two new federal privacy rules for employer wellness programs were recently issued. The rules outline how employer-based wellness programs must handle the health information they request and receive from employees and their spouses. These rules come into place as growing concerns for employee privacy have been surrounding wellness programs.

Key Organizations Involved

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – Founded in 1965, The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Passed in 1990, The ADA prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. The ADA also establishes requirements for telecommunications relay services.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) – The 2008 act is a federal law that protects individuals from genetic discrimination in health insurance and employment. Genetic discrimination is the misuse of genetic information.

Overall Goal

The primary goal of both rules, according to the EEOC, is to ensure that “wellness programs actually promote good health and are not just used to collect or sell sensitive medical information about employees and family members or to impermissibly shift health insurance costs to them.”

Rulings

The finalized privacy rules for employer wellness programs are as follows:

Rule 1 – The EEOC is issuing its final rule to amend the regulations and interpretive guidance implementing Title I of the ADA to provide guidance on the extent to which employers may use incentives to encourage employees to participate in wellness programs that ask them to respond to disability-related inquiries and/or undergo medical examinations. This rule applies to all wellness programs that include disability-related inquiries and/or medical examinations whether they are offered only to employees enrolled in an employer-sponsored group health plan, offered to all employees regardless of whether they are enrolled in such a plan, or offered as a benefit of employment by employers that do not sponsor a group health plan or group health insurance.

For supplement information on rule 1, please click here.

Rule 2  The EEOC is issuing a final rule to amend the regulations implementing Title II of the GINA of 2008 as they relate to employer-sponsored wellness programs. This rule addresses the extent to which an employer may offer an inducement to an employee for the employee’s spouse to provide information about the spouse’s manifestation of disease or disorder as part of a health risk assessment (HRA) administered in connection with an employer-sponsored wellness program. Several technical changes to the existing regulations are included.

For supplement information on rule 2, please click here.

Conclusion

Both privacy rules for employer wellness programs will ban employers from requiring employees to agree to the sale, exchange, transfer or other disclosure of their health information in order to participate in a wellness program to receive an incentive. Employers must notify employees about what personal information a wellness program will collect, who the information will be shared with, and for what purpose the information will be shared.

Jennifer DiPietro has been managing B2B gift card programs since 2010. A lover of social media, she has recently decided to get back into blogging as well as delve deeper into the world of marketing. Native to New England, she enjoys the beauty of the coast, but also loves the cold, snowy winters. She is obsessed with Boston sports and the Denver Broncos.

U.S. Workers and Wellness Initiatives

wellness initiatives

According to a new poll of 617 full-time workers by Flex+Strategy Group and Work+Life Fit, about half of all U.S. workers take part in some kind of wellness initiative, while about a third of all workers participate in some kind of employer-sponsored initiative. So if half of employees are doing some kind of exercise, and a third are doing it with work, what’s everyone else up to?

  • 25% say their employer doesn’t offer any kind of wellness program (that they know of)
  • 20% say their employers have a program but they don’t participate (millennials are more likely to opt out than older colleagues)
  • Another 20% say they participate in wellness activities like group exercise classes or tracking their steps with a wearable device such as FitBit, but choose to do so on their own.

Do you participate or manager a wellness program? If so, your input is important to our 2016 Corporate Wellness Survey.

Take it now, the first 50 responders get a gift card! Survey closes May 20.

Start the Survey


Wellness Initiatives: Teleworkers vs. Traditional Office Workers

Another way to dice the data is to analyze teleworkers versus traditional office workers. Teleworkers are more likely to pursue independent wellness initiatives rather than an employer-sponsored program. This makes sense because teleworkers are already living independently of their co-workers and employers.

Rather than going into an office each day and interacting with others who might share similar fitness interests, teleworkers remain virtually separate from colleagues and their daily routines. There’s little opportunity for coincidental overlaps in fitness, like runners discovering they both go out for a 5k after work. Teleworkers’ independent working style translates directly to their wellness initiative engagement.

Understanding Employee Differences

Whether you’re focused on how millennials measure up to baby boomers and Gen Xers or your concerned about how your remote employees compare to your office employees, it is important to understand your individual workforce’s wellness habits. Understanding how your staff engages is the key to ensuring that you can create wellness initiatives that fit their needs. If every employer took time to audit this engagement we could significantly increase not only the number of employees who engage in wellness initiatives but those who engage through their employers, connecting their healthy living to their insurance premiums.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

3 Facts About Employee Wellness Programs

facts about employee wellness programs

Employee wellness programs are becoming an increasingly integral part of employee benefits plans and incentive programs. There are a lot of factors to consider when deciding if an employee wellness program is going to work for your staff, but here are three simple facts about employee wellness programs to help you begin your evaluation.

Do you manage or participate in a Health & Wellness Program? If so, we are looking for your feedback.

Take our 10-minute corporate wellness survey now!

  1. Wellness programs are easy. Employee wellness programs don’t need to mean extra stress and tasks. They are surprisingly easy to manage and don’t necessarily always require a dedicated employee, which adds cost and headcount. These programs can be easily managed by a volunteer employee committee or grouped in with your benefits specialist in your HR department. Just because the word “program” is at the end of the name doesn’t mean it needs to be hard or stressful. If your employee wellness program is well planned, it can practically run itself.
  2. Wellness programs are popular. Employee wellness programs continue to rise in popularity. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) 2015 Employee Benefits Report, 80% of employers offer preventative wellness services to their staff. That figure increases to 92% for employers with over 200 employees. The larger the workforce, the larger the health risk and the larger the impetus for a program that promotes healthy living where employees spend the most waking hours during the week, the workplace.
  3. Wellness programs pay off. The question employers always want to ask when deciding if they are going to engage in any kind of employee reward program, whether it is an employee wellness program or a performance-based incentive program, is what will the ROI be? According to Rand Health’s “Review of the U.S. Workplace Wellness Market,” employee wellness programs pay off. The average return on investment for an employee wellness program across industries and company sizes is 3:1. This means your organization could see an even higher ROI, with a well-managed, well-administered program.

For more information and five more facts about employee wellness programs, check out this article from Forbes.


Incentives in Corporate Wellness Survey

Do you manage or participate in a corporate wellness program? We’d like to get your feedback on wellness programs.  Take our brief 10-minute survey.

incentives in corporate wellness

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Incentives in Corporate Wellness Survey

Incentives in Corporate WellnessWhile the number of wellness programs continues to grow, we can’t help but wonder which incentives in corporate wellness are truly motivating employees to participate in programs and, most importantly, to stay well. There is still so much to learn about what works best in wellness and we are quickly learning that there is no one-size fits all motivator and motivation can be both intrinsic and extrinsic.

Do you manage or participate in a Health & Wellness Program? If so, we are looking for your feedback.

Take our 10-minute corporate wellness survey now!

The Cost of Wellness

Corporate wellness programs are helpful for employers in managing healthcare costs. Half of all Americans receive health insurance through an employer and that benefit does not come cheap. The average annual cost for health insurance premiums is more than $5,000 for individual employees and $14,000 for families. Spending more on employee wellness programs can save on overall health insurance costs incurred. Preventative healthcare, management of chronic illness, and healthier behaviors will keep employees from having to constantly use health insurance, be absent from work, and have a drop in their productivity. The potential savings from a well-designed wellness program can save employers anywhere from $2,000 to $9,000 annually per employee!

Employee Wellness Program Spending Trends

  • 2015: $693/employee
  • 2014: $595/employee
  • 2010: $430/employee

Legal Implications

Last spring, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) proposed rules that classify wellness programs voluntary as long as the employer rewards (or penalizes) employees no more than 30% of the cost of coverage. “The EEOC [proposed] rules are good news for employers and employees. They offer clarity and acknowledge that incentives play a role in fostering engagement,” says LuAnn Heinen, vice president at National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers’ perspectives on health policy issues. But not all employers are onboard with the proposed rules, feeling that a 30% cap would limit them too much.

While both rewards and penalties have been used in the past, strong evidence shows that penalties are NOT the best choice when looking to motivate. They can prevent participation and can cause a detrimental effect on the well-being of employees. They do not motivate employees the way we may have expected, so the majority of employers are looking to rewards, like gift cards, cash bonuses, and premium reductions.

Evolving Corporate Wellness

The design of corporate wellness programs and incentives will continue to evolve as healthcare reform changes. As companies shift away from the one-size-fits-all idea of wellness to individualized programs, they now take into account everything, from an employee’s genetics, personality, and willingness to change. Focusing on changing the workplace to a healthier environment will help employees become more intrinsically motivated and embrace a culture that focuses on physical, emotional, and financial well-being.


Incentives in Corporate Wellness Survey

Do you manage or participate in a corporate wellness program? We’d like to get your feedback on wellness programs.  Take our brief 10-minute survey.

incentives in corporate wellness

Jennifer DiPietro has been managing B2B gift card programs since 2010. A lover of social media, she has recently decided to get back into blogging as well as delve deeper into the world of marketing. Native to New England, she enjoys the beauty of the coast, but also loves the cold, snowy winters. She is obsessed with Boston sports and the Denver Broncos.

Saving Money With Wellness Programs

Saving Money with Wellness ProgramsWorkplace wellness programs are beneficial to both employers and employees, but how much are wellness programs really adding to the bottom line? Many skeptics continue to argue that saving money on wellness programs is as plausible as finding that flying pig. But ROI is a narrow metric that doesn’t always portray the full story of a wellness program’s success, not to mention the ROI debate has focused mainly on one type of wellness program, lifestyle management (think diet and exercise).

Since ROI only tells half the story, how do we know what’s working for our workplace wellness programs? Back in September, we discussed that 64% of corporate wellness administrators were using VOI to measure their program. While VOI has faced some scrutiny of its own, it measures the intangible benefits of wellness, such as employee morale, engagement, and productivity, in addition to hard ROI. More companies realize that increasing these intangibles can improve their culture and in turn increase their bottom line.

Types of Wellness Programs

Disease Management Programs

In a recent Rand study, Do Workplace Wellness Programs Save Employers Money?, a decade worth of data showed that disease management programs delivered 86% of the hard healthcare cost savings, along with a 30% reduction in hospital admissions. This type of program focuses on existing diseases (heart disease, diabetes, asthma, cancer, arthritis, etc), easing the path of the disease to improve the quality of daily living through medication and prescription adherence, proper self-care, and education.

Lifestyle Management Programs (Physical Wellness)

Lifestyle management programs are the physical aspects of wellness, diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking. Lifestyle management doesn’t see quite the return as disease management, but with chronic disease at an all time high, preventing disease is crucial. Reducing stress, biometric screenings, and health education can help your employees fight disease before it starts.  As populations get healthier, we could see a rise in the ROI from lifestyle management programs as chronic conditions decrease. Lifestyle management programs are still worth investing in, especially for the VOI for both employer and employee. Healthier employees have less absenteeism and typically a higher morale. Higher morale and camaraderie in your workforce is better for the bottom line.

Engaging Your Employees in Wellness

No matter which path your wellness program takes, employee engagement is key. Employers must realize that they cannot just make their employees live healthier lifestyles. Here are a few ways to engage your employees in any wellness program.

  • Keep things simple – Easy, simple to follow programs are one of the best ways to keep employees engaged and interested.
  • Keep track of progress – Keep track of the progress your employees are making. Update them often so they can feel proud of their progress.
  • Socialize wellness – Share goals and achievements with co-workers to build teamwork and friendly challenges.
  • Incentives – Incentivizing employees for achievements can be a helpful tool when the right incentives are used. Rework your incentive choices as needed to achieve long-term results.

Find the right reward


Nearly 20% of hospital patients are readmitted within the first 30 days after discharge. Learn how incentives can reduce that rate in Reducing Readmission Rates Through Incentives and Education whitepaper.

Jennifer DiPietro has been managing B2B gift card programs since 2010. A lover of social media, she has recently decided to get back into blogging as well as delve deeper into the world of marketing. Native to New England, she enjoys the beauty of the coast, but also loves the cold, snowy winters. She is obsessed with Boston sports and the Denver Broncos.

Types of Wellness Programs: A Brief Guide

types of wellness programsEmployee wellness programs are becoming an increasingly important part of employee benefits packages. Knowing the different types of wellness programs in the market can help your HR staff have a better understanding of what your unique workforce needs are and how to best market the program to your employees. Having the optional benefit of a wellness program may not be at the top of a candidates list when deciding on what organization they want to work for, but providing a well organized, well-marketed program can help your organization stand out as one that values the health and well-being of their employees.

Here are three of the most prevalent types of wellness programs.

  1. Participatory Wellness Programs: These types of wellness programs are based on employees participating in some kind of activity and an employer covering the cost to encourage the active behavior. This could be a free or discounted gym membership, a subsidy to play in a rec sports league, or a paid entry into a local walk or road race.
  2. Activity-Only Contingent Wellness Programs: These types of wellness programs may be the easiest to administer and maintain. These are the programs where employers give a fitness tracker to an employee, or have them self report activity in a central repository. Then employers give rewards, like gift cards to employees who meet activity goals over a set period of time.
  3. Outcome-Based Wellness Program: These types of wellness program can get dicey. Since they base rewards on employees meeting a certain health standard, whether it’s a goal weight, blood pressure, cholesterol or another metric, these programs can walk a fine line between employers encouraging healthy living and employers crossing the line into employees’ personal, medical histories. These programs can be extremely effective because of their biometric basis, but be careful not to cross that line. Surveying your employees pre-program to see how they feel about biometric screenings is a good way to avoid any issues.

Which program type will work best for you? There’s no prescriptive formula for this type of decision. Surveying employees and management to see what will work best for your particular organization will be the best way to determine the most successful model.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

Hi-Tech Wellness Encouraging Employee Participation

hi-tech wellness

As employee wellness programs increase in popularity, hi-tech wellness can help employers engage employees in their programs and keeps programs light and fun. The range of ways to incorporate technology into wellness programs is growing. Between apps, wearables, and dashboards, hi-tech wellness is becoming a tool to drive wellness program success for employers and employees alike. Here are three ways that hi-tech wellness can work for you.

  1. Allows employees to engage at their own pace: Tracking activity and calorie intake can be a great way to get employees started. More advanced metrics can follow later. For employees who are reluctant to get involved in a wellness program, a simple Fitbit to track their steps and try to reach a preset goal of 10,000 steps a day could be a gateway to independent goal setting and striving for more. According to digital agency Acquity Group, 22% of consumers own an activity monitor and that number will double within the next three years. Both the employee and the employer can track these metrics, allowing the employer to see the direct impact of their program as it is happening.
  1. Keep it social: Social media consumes our lives. Everyone is posting their whereabouts on Facebook or a picture on Instagram. So why should wellness programs be any different? With internal private dashboards for your organization only, or large public apps like MapMyFitness, employers and employees have options for socializing their wellness efforts, and employers their wellness programs.
  1. Wearable options lead to adoption: With so many options in the growing wearable market, employees can now find the right activity monitor to meet their needs. Options range from a simple pedometer, 6 types of Fitbits (along with 2 basic pedometers), countless brands joining in the quest for the perfect wearable, all the way to the Apple Watch. Employees are able to research and find the right activity tracker to fit their tech preferences and fitness style. This leads to an easier adoption of trackable technology, and ultimately can mean a higher participation rate in employer wellness programs.
Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.

The CVS/pharmacy® Wellness Newsletter: February Edition

wellness newsletterTop stories from the February CVS/pharmacy® Wellness Newsletter!

Wellness programs continue to evolve into 2016, challenging employers to keep things fresh. This edition of the CVS/pharmacy® Wellness Newsletter focuses on using rewards and incentives to encourage healthy behavioral changes, resources on how to maintain engagement and secure long-term program success, CVS news and more.  Read below for more on what this edition has to offer.

CVS in the News

dosomething.org

Quitting Smoking: Priority #1 – DoSomething.org and CVS Health team up with hip-hop duo Kalin and Myles to encourage young people to create  and share handmade cards encouraging smokers to quit.

 

project health

Schedule Your Health Screenings – CVS Health is hosting no cost health screening events in many major metropolitan areas across the U.S.  Check your BMI, blood pressure, blood sugar, and more.

More on this section…


Health & Wellness News

Wellness Challenges

Creating Wellness Challenges – Create wellness challenges that encourage employees to become happier, healthier, and more energetic at work.

 

wellness tools

Wellness & Fitness Tech Tool to Help You Stay Fit – These 8 tech tools will change your mindset about using the word “diet” when discussing  your health & wellness goals.

 

More on this section…


CVS Health Brand

CVS/pharmacy Gift Card Product Suite

With more than 8,000 locations, CVS/pharmacy is the most convenient place to get the prescription medications, healthcare, and beauty products you need. CVS/pharmacy has a range of gift cards available that are ideal for using as rewards and incentives in your wellness programs. Discounts are also available based on volume!

Contact us today to learn more.

Learn more

The CVS/pharmacy® Wellness Newsletter is brought to you by GiftCard Partners, Inc. and is designed with your needs in mind.

Jennifer DiPietro has been managing B2B gift card programs since 2010. A lover of social media, she has recently decided to get back into blogging as well as delve deeper into the world of marketing. Native to New England, she enjoys the beauty of the coast, but also loves the cold, snowy winters. She is obsessed with Boston sports and the Denver Broncos.

Workplace Wellness Infographic

Workplace wellness is a $6 billion industry. In today’s age of technology, millions of American employees are sitting at their desks for hours on end. Behaviors like these have led to a growing rate of chronic diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, stress, exhaustion, and absenteeism, just to name a few. Implementing workplace wellness programs has become a vital piece in both maintaining and improving employee health. The Society for Human Resource Management (commonly known as SHRM) released a 2015 Employee Benefits Report that discussed the uphill trend in implementing workplace wellness programs, addressing preventable and chronic disease programs in particular.

RAND Corporation also released a brief on wellness programs, titled “Do Workplace Wellness Programs Save Employers Money.” It took a closer look at the two most common components of a wellness program:

  1. Lifestyle management program- mitigates longer-term health risks, like smoking or obesity
  2. Disease management program- addresses immediate health problems, or chronic conditions like heart disease or diabetes

It also explained the difference in ROI depending on which program you use. Overall both programs are shown to reduce an employer’s average healthcare costs by about $30 per member per month, but 87% of those savings came from disease management programs.

Disease management drives return on investment from workplace wellness programs.

Since lifestyle behaviors are deeply ingrained, changing those ‘unhealthy’ behaviors becomes a challenge for most organizations. One way to offset that challenge is with the use of incentives and rewards.

GiftCard Partners teamed up with Shapiro+Raj to explore the shift toward wellness programs and the challenges employers have to really engage their workforce. What they found was an evolution in the incentives and rewards used in these programs, from common cash and premium reductions, to the use of gift cards.

Find the right reward

Taking findings from all three of these reports we’ve compiled our Workplace Wellness Infographic to show the growing popularity of workplace wellness and the key role incentives and rewards play in motivating and engaging your workforce.

Click on the Workplace Wellness Infographic for a larger view

workplace wellness infographic

Lauren is the Marketing Specialist here at GiftCard Partners. She enjoys all things marketing and design related. Learning about the newest trends and technologies in the b2b gift card world and seeing how we can use them to develop the best experience for our audience and reader base is our goal.

Smoking at Work: Not What it Used to Be

smoking at work

Smoking at work is not what it used to be. In the days of Don Draper, it was something everyone did, all the time, whether they were at work or home. Now, it’s difficult to find a restaurant that even has a smoking section. According to a recent SHRM study that addresses smoking at work, employers have smoking cessation programs on their minds.

According to the survey, 47% of responding employers restrict their employees smoking in some way during working hours.

  • 58% limit where employees can smoke
  • 30% limit the number of times employees can smoke during the course of the work day
  • 31% ban smoking altogether

Many employers are finding that smoking can be distracting and disruptive to the workday. Not to mention it has obvious and proven health risks that raise costs for healthcare and strain the employee/employer relationship.

So how are you going to get your employees to quit without being too pushy?

Remember that old saying “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink?” What if you provide so much proverbial water, that it can’t be ignored? Under the Affordable Care Act, employers can incentivize smoking cessation through premium deductions of up to 50%. Creating a well of education on healthy, smoke-free lifestyles not only helps give employees a starting point, but it can have a real financial impact on both your employees and your business.

Want to add an extra incentive to your program outside of a healthcare premium deduction? CVS/pharmacy is both a leader in smoking cessation (eliminating all tobacco products in 2014) and in health and wellness program rewards.

With a suite of gift cards, CVS/pharmacy offers rewards for every employee and every wellness-related program. The CVS/pharmacy Select® Card is a selectively filtered gift card that debits on only health-related items, eliminating things like candy and sodas.

Find the right incentive

Smoking cessation seems like an easy win, or maybe even obvious but it can lead to healthier living for employees and lower costs for employers.

Rachel Merkin is a digital marketing professional. She has been exploring the worlds of social media and B2B gift cards since 2006. When she is not blogging, tweeting, or finding ways to leverage Facebook as a marketing tool, she spends as much time at the beach as she can.