In May, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it intends to issue proposed regulations addressing health plan-based wellness programs. According to the EEOC’s announcement, the guidance is expected to address the following items:

  1. Does title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allow employers to offer financial inducements and/or impose financial penalties as part of wellness programs offered through their health plans? And, if so, to what extent may those inducements or penalties be offered or imposed, respectively?
  2. Are there other aspects of wellness programs that may be subject to the ADA’s nondiscrimination provisions?
  3. Does the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act allow employers to offer inducements to employees’ spouses or other family members who answer questions about their current medical conditions on a health risk assessment (HRA)?

Formal and informal guidance from the EEOC has rasied some questions concerning fairly common wellness program designs. As many employers are currently reviewing their health plan offerings for upcoming renewals, this guidance (even if in proposed form) may be helpful to provide some insight and clarity as to where this agency may be headed concerning wellness programs.