Beginning in 2014, small businesses can apply for grant money to implement comprehensive workplace wellness programs through a $200 billion, five-year federal program designed to address underlying poor health habits and promote disease prevention through:
Grant money can be used to set up employee screenings and assessments; mechanisms to encourage employee participation; initiatives to change unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices with counseling, seminars and online programs; and workplace environment policies that encourage healthier lifestyles.
Employers will be able to offer increased incentives to employees for participation in a wellness program like lunchtime walking or smoking cessation groups, or for meeting certain health-status targets. Premium discounts of up to 30 percent of the cost of coverage will also be available. Existing wellness regulations max out at 20 percent of the total premium.
In addition, a national public education plan will focus on the importance of community and worksite wellness and health-promotion programs. And companies of any size will have access to government web portals, call centers and other tools to increase employee participation; develop standardized measures of a program's impact on employee health and healthcare expenditures; and create evaluation tools to measure changes in productivity, absenteeism, changes in employees' health status, and medical costs incurred over the course of a specified time period.
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