Last year, several U.S. Departments issued their final ruling on wellness programs within the workplace to comply with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This ruling became effective with the ACA on January 1, 2014. It supports employers and workplaces that promote employee health and wellness programs.

Employers have a unique opportunity to offer healthcare education and insight to their employees, while also retaining the added benefit of offering incentives to participate in those programs.

This ruling has ongoing effects for the health of your employees – particularly in the case of smokers. The ruling has standards that include non-discriminatory, health-contingent wellness programs which typically provide incentives for employees who meet specific goals related to their health status. For example, a smoker may be offered motivational rewards if they stop smoking or decrease their use of tobacco.

Such incentives don’t just benefit the employee’s health – they also decrease the employer’s cost: “Smokers cost their employers nearly $6,000 a year more than staff who don’t smoke,” according to a recent study from Ohio State University researchers. They also lower costs for healthcare on the whole, since the average excess healthcare costs for smokers is a little more than $2,000 per year.

When the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury issued their ruling last year, they implemented provisions in the ACA to increase the maximum reward or penalty allowed for the wellness programs that support prevention or reduction of tobacco use to 50% of the cost of individual coverage premiums.

This is good news for employers, employees, and the healthcare system, alike! Although most, if not all insurance carriers now provide assistance, support, and often free prescription drugs to help stop smoking, this is a step toward employers getting more involved and supportive in their employees’ health.

The team at the MBA Health Insurance Trust would be happy to help you and your employees understand more about wellness programs and how the ruling affects you. Contact Scott Keno at or call him at (509) 448-4443.

Interested in learning more about the changes in employee benefits? Join us at one of our seminars on September 30th or October 2nd to hear from leading experts n the field. To register visit