Healthy reminder: HIPAA rules apply to most workplace wellness programs

By   John L. Barlament,    Quarles & Brady LLP

Wellness programs are great ways for employers to provide guidance on ways employees can improve their health through fitness, diet and various other means. But oftentimes, employers forget that wellness programs may be an extension of a company’s heath care plan. As such, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules apply equally to these wellness programs as they do health care plans.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released a list of questions and answers to remind employers of their HIPAA obligations with regard to wellness programs.

In the release, titled “HIPAA Privacy and Security and Workplace Wellness Programs,” HHS clarifies which wellness programs are subject to HIPAA rules. That is, any workplace wellness program a company offers as part of a group health plan for employees. “Where a workplace wellness program is offered as part of a group health plan, the individually identifiable health information collected from or created about participants in the wellness program is [protected health information (PHI)] and protected by the HIPAA Rules,” HHS says.

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Proposed New Rule Would Amend ADA, ACA Workplace Wellness Programs

Workplace Wellness programs that may be part of a group health plan or  are offered outside of a group health plan will be affected under proposed regulations released by the The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC. The agency is accepting comments that must be received by the Commission on or before June 19, 2015.

This proposed rule provides guidance on the extent to which the ADA permits employers to offer incentives to employees to promote participation in wellness programs that are employee health programs, said the EEOC.

The agency said references in the proposed rule regarding the requirement to provide a notice and the use of incentives, and changes to the corresponding section of the interpretive guidance, apply only to wellness programs that are part of or provided by a group health plan or by a health insurance issuer offering group health insurance in connection with a group health plan.

The term “group health plan” includes both insured and self-insured group health plans and is used interchangeably with the term “health plan” throughout the preamble.

“All of the other proposed changes to the regulations apply to all “health programs,” which include wellness programs whether or not they are offered as part of or outside of a group health plan or group health insurance coverage. The term “incentives” includes both financial and in-kind incentives, such as time-off awards, prizes, or other items of value,” the agency said.

Several law firms analyzed the proposed changes.

Following are links to several of the reviews:

HHS releases HIPAA guidance on workplace wellness programs | Data Privacy and Security Insider.

http://www.employmentmattersblog.com/2015/04/the-eeoc-provides-welcome-guidance-on-employment-based-wellness-plans/?utm_source=Mondaq&utm_medium=syndication&utm_campaign=View-Original

http://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/five-ways-the-eeoc-proposed-wellness-reg-23794/

Wellness Committees Prove Their Value

Workplace wellness committees are important elements of successful workplace health promotion programs, according to the results of a workplace wellness management survey conducted by Wellness Program Management Advisor and http://www.WellnessJunction.com.

Almost 75 percent of the survey participants said they have a wellness committee for their organizational programs, and 80 percent said the committees are important for the success of their workplace wellness efforts, the survey revealed.

Feedback

“The feedback the committee members provide is invaluable,” said a wellness program manager. “They represent the employee population and are very plugged in to what they need and want from a workplace wellness department.”

The committee also helps compose wellness information surveys that are circulated among all employee groups; in addition, they assist wellness department members with survey analysis, the manager said.

“We believe it’s important to know what people outside the wellness department are thinking and feeling,” the respondent noted. “We think we know, but the wellness committee often brings other issues to our attention. It’s a good idea to have many minds that are generating ideas. That’s a valuable service.”

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And the end result is program and process improvement, respondents noted.

“It’s a way for us to hear what others want and need in a wellness program,” said a project leader. “New ideas and suggestions are the things that help us maintain focus.” Continue reading

Managers Less Concerned About Return on Investment From Their Wellness Programs and More Concerned About the Overall Health and Wellness of Their Employees, Study Finds

 

Gaining senior management for their wellness program and return on investment are among the two top searches we have found over the years. And, proving ROI hits the tops of the list of wellness managers concerns.

ROI, how senior management measures any and all activities in an organization, has always been a major concern of wellness professionals, we have found during our surveys.

And, on top of that there are a few individuals – not directly working in the workplace wellness management field per se – who have been throwing cold water on certain reports surrounding ROI.

But the good news for wellness professionals come from the results of a recent study that found that managers are less concerned about return on investment from their wellness programs and more concerned about the overall health and well-being of their employees.

Indeed, employers are looking beyond ROI when they implement workplace wellness programs found the results of a study by Humana and the economics Economist Intelligence Unit.

For instance, nearly 70 percent of executives “consider their organization’s wellness program to be cost effective, even though not all of the outcomes are measurable,” according to the study report “Measuring Wellness: From Data to Insights.”

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Humana said the study explored “why companies implement workplace wellness, how data influences these programs and identifies obstacles that inhibit program participation.”

The study was conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and surveyed 225 U.S.-based executives and 630 full-time employees from organizations with workplace wellness programs..

“It’s interesting to validate that employers now view ROI as an important, but not exclusive or even primary measure of a wellness program’s success,” said Beth Bierbower, president of Humana’s Employer Group Segment. Continue reading

Wellness Program That Motivates Participants to Make Healthier Choices Yields Better Health, Lower Costs, Tracking Data Reveals

Improved health, as shown through lower health care costs and fewer unscheduled absences were found among employees who actively participated in the HumanaVitality program, according to results of a recent study.

Among the significant findings from the two-year study:

  • Unengaged members in both years averaged $53 more per month spent on health care claims than members who were engaged in HumanaVitality both years.
  • The largest impact on health care costs was on members with lifestyle-related chronic conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. Engaged members with these conditions had 60 percent lower health claims costs than unengaged members with these conditions.

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  • Also, unscheduled absences were 56.3 percent higher among unengaged members in both years than engaged members.

Continue reading

Active Listening Essential for Wellness Professionals – at Work and Home

After a rough day at work — placing others people’s problems into perspective — you may be faced with communication conflicts at home as well. For that reason, effective communication is a must!

According to Stephen M. Horowitz, Ph.D., who at the time achieved FAWHP status, active listening is a very important component of communication. Active listening, said Horowitz, “defuses anger by acknowledging the emotion and it allows you to decide whether or not you want to ‘buy into’ someone else’s momentary craziness.” Continue reading

Motivating Employees Always A Challenging Goal, Managers Say

 

Motivating and incenting employees to participate in their organization’s wellness programs is a much cited chief concern of wellness and health promotion professionals responding to the Workplace Wellness Management Survey, sponsored by the  Wellness Management Information Center.

Among the expressed concerns of wellness managers were such comments as getting employees to “buy in;” participation and commitment; “getting people engaged and participating;” ample time for the employee to participate in any programming;  “how to retain employees once they are engaged in the program;” the lack of individual employee motivation; getting people to use their memberships; and motivating additional participation.

The problem is employees “have so many work-related time constraints that sometimes it is difficult to get them to see wellness programs as a good use of their already limited time,” said a corporate nurse practitioner.

Concerning employee enrollment in programs a manager health promotion said: “Those interested in the interventions are the ones who need the interventions the least.”

Keeping employees once they participate in a wellness program is Continue reading

Applying Quality Management (QM) Principles To Wellness Committees

Their is no disputing that the heart of a successful wellness program lies in a dynamic committee.  And, many important QM principles can be applied to the structure and function of your wellness committee.

Almost 75 percent of wellness professionals surveyed said they have a wellness committee for their organizational programs, and 80 percent said the committees are important for the success of their workplace wellness efforts, the survey revealed.  The survey was conducted by the Wellness Management Information Center.

Feedback

“The feedback the committee members provide is invaluable,” said a wellness program manager.  “They represent  Continue reading

Workplace Wellness Certificate Tells the World You Know Your Stuff

Editor’s Note: This article is one of the most read posts on Wellness Manager.

A certification program raises the professional stature of the profession. A ‘certified’ manager in any profession is generally worth more money in the marketplace.

It is a credential that could mean the difference in competing for or getting a job.

It tells the hiring manager that you worked harder than the other person to earn the certificate. Generally, only a percentage of the profession will rise to hold the certificate.

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The National Wellness Institute and WebMD launched a five level Certification Program for Worksite Wellness practitioners.

Larry Chapman, a well known and highly regarded expert consultant on wellness and health promotion, has been serving as the trainer for the certification classes held in conjunction with the annual National Wellness Institute program.

Each level requires two full days of training and successful completion of a Challenge Exam. Each level is focused on twelve different key skills critical to the design and implementation of a successful employee wellness program, according to the program description.

Level I Certified Wellness Program Coordinator (CWPC) is designed for organizations with fewer than a thousand employees. Level II Certified Wellness Program Manager (CWPM) is for organizations with 1,000 to 10,000 employees.

Level III Certified Wellness Program Director (CWPD) is for organizations with more than 10,000 employees. Level IV Certified Worksite Wellness Program Consultant (CWWPC) can then work with any size organization.

The Level V Certified Worksite Wellness Professional (CWWP) is for any size organization plus ten (10) years of progressively more challenging program management and authorship of a recent related peer review article on worksite wellness.

For information on the Worksite Wellness professional certification program visit the National Wellness Institute: http://www.nationalwellness.org/?page=CWP

New Study: Workplace Wellness Programs Seen Cutting Chronic Costs

Workplace wellness programs can lower health care costs in workers with chronic diseases, but components of the programs that encourage workers to adopt healthier lifestyles may not reduce health costs or lead to lower net savings, according to a new research study.

Following a large employee wellness program sponsored PepsiCo, the study conducted by the Rand Corporation found that “efforts to help employees manage chronic illnesses saved $3.78 in health care costs for every $1 invested in the effort.”

However, the program’s lifestyle management components that encourage healthy living did not deliver returns that were higher than the costs, the researchers found.

“The PepsiCo program provides a substantial return for the investment made in helping employees manage chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease,” said Dr. Soeren Mattke, the study’s senior author and a senior natural scientist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

“But the lifestyle management component of the program — while delivering benefits — did not provide more savings than it cost to offer,” he continued.

With any prevention effort, it is often “easier to achieve cost savings in Continue reading