You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t always have too many options when it comes to health insurance costs, but pretty soon you may be able to lower your rates just by being healthy. Last week, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and the Treasury issued final rules on employment-based wellness programs, which allow companies to lower health insurance premiums for employees who participate in them. This final rule (which provides guidance on an existing section of the Affordable Care Act) will go into effect for insurance plans beginning on or after January 1, 2014.
The Affordable Care Act created these incentives to promote healthier workplaces, and these final rules give companies more flexibility to offer their employees rewards for staying fit.Ã‚Â In the past, companies could reduce premiums up to 20 percent when employees took part in Ã¢â‚¬Å“participatory wellness programs,Ã¢â‚¬Â which were available to anyone regardless of their health (like completing a health risk assessment or attending a health education seminar).
But these new guidelines bumped up the maximum discount to 30 percent and gave new standards for Ã¢â‚¬Å“health-contingent wellness programs,Ã¢â‚¬Â which are programs designed to reward employees for meeting certain health standards (like quitting smoking, lowering cholesterol or BMI, or taking actions toward certain health goals). As an added bonus, the maximum reward is raised to 50 percent for participating in programs that prevent or decrease tobacco use.
One important thing to note: Employers will be able to give either rewards or penalties to employees based on their participation. So essentially, if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a smoker who chooses not to use a smoking cessation program, your company could charge you more for your healthcare premiums than your tobacco-less coworkers.
So does this mean everyone can expect lower costs if theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re healthy? Not necessarily. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the rule only applies to companies that offer participatory or health-contingent wellness programs, so check with your human resources department to find out whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s available to you. And unfortunately, just because the ACA has raised the maximum allowed discount, that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t mean your employer will automatically reduce your rates by 30 percent. Regardless, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a great way to save a little cash while staying fit if your company does offer the option. A healthier you and some extra money in your wallet? ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a win-win!
photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock More from Women's Health:
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