Employees, Prepare to Get Healthy, Like It Or Not!

Wellness programs have sprung up all over Corporate America.  Employer-sponsored, these programs are based on the idea that healthy employees are happy employees and happy employees are productive employees.  Although they continue to be popular with businesses, recent studies seem to indicate that they are not very successful in helping employees make long-term improvements to their overall health.  See my prior post, Are Today’s Wellness Programs Running Out of Steam?

Wellness Programs Haven’t Kicked the Bucket Yet

But just when it seems that perhaps the trend towards regulating employees’ weight, cholesterol levels, and cardiovascular health, might be fading, here comes the public sector, bringing up the rear.  woman healthy streching for a run

Workforce.com reports that at least two states have moved towards mandatory wellness programs:

A California Assembly committee passed a bill this month that would require employers contracting with the state to offer one or more wellness programs to their employees. A bill introduced in Michigan would require that the state give preference to employers that offer wellness programs in awarding contracts.

California Assembly Bill 2360, introduced by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, in February, would apply to employers with 10 or more employees bidding on state contracts worth more than $1 million. Businesses could comply in a variety of ways, such as subsidizing memberships to fitness clubs, setting up their own fitness facilities, sponsoring amateur sports teams composed of employees, or providing employees with health information.

Levine’s bill was introduced after state legislators rejected a sweeping health care reform proposal by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that, among other things, would have provided incentives to plan members such as gym memberships; weight management programs; and reductions in health insurance premiums to promote prevention, wellness and healthy lifestyles.

A.B. 2360 has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, where it will be considered along with all other bills that could have a financial impact on the state, according to a spokesman for Assemblyman Levine.

Michigan’s wellness measure would require the state’s Department of Management and Budget to give preference to business entities that have wellness programs in place for their employees in awarding a contract for services and items needed by state agencies. The bill does not define wellness beyond “a health promotion program offered by an employer to his or her employees.”

A report by the Senate Fiscal Agency for the state of Michigan found that the bill, which was introduced in February 2007 by state Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Lansing, would have no fiscal impact on state or local government. The bill has been referred to the Michigan Senate Committee on Health Policy.

A California Assembly committee passed a bill this month that would require employers contracting with the state to offer one or more wellness programs to their employees. A bill introduced in Michigan would require that the state give preference to employers that offer wellness programs in awarding contracts. Delaware’s health-management program for public sector employees, DelaWELL, was recently awarded the National NASPE award.  I’ll be curious to see whether mandatory healthiness (if there is such a thing) will be more effective than voluntary, reward-based wellness programs.

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