Skip to content
Subscriber Only

How Wellness Programs Can Cost the Sick

How Wellness Programs Can Cost the Sick
Illustration by Bloomberg Businessweek

Workplace wellness programs sound like a win-win: Employees get discounted gym memberships or help quitting cigarettes, and their company gets a healthier staff and lower insurance rates. For companies, the deal is about to get even sweeter.

The health reform law will soon let employers reward workers’ efforts to get healthier with discounts of up to 30 percent of their health-care costs, up from 20 percent. They will also be allowed to penalize employees who fail to meet health goals by the same amount—a provision that could be abused to “weed out sick workers,” says JoAnn Volk, a researcher at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.