Grants will help small businesses provide wellness programs

    We’ve long maintained that health care costs could dramatically be reduced if more people adopted healthy lifestyles. That’s why we’re glad to see that wellness is an element of the recently enacted national health care reform, including a provision to provide grants to small companies to help them provide workplace wellness programs.

    Arguments remain on the overall reform package as embodied in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

    But there can be no debate that wellness programs and healthy lifestyles can reduce health care costs and allow people to live more enjoyable lives – and let employers have more productive employees.
    The June issue of Health Insurance Underwriter has an excellent summary of the PPACA’s wellness provisions, which are a mix of carrots and sticks.

    We agree with Peter Stein, author of the Health Insurance Underwriter article, that the wellness provisions of the PPACA don’t go far enough and may have a minimal impact on costs but, as Stein says, “are nevertheless very positive steps in the right direction.”

    Stein lays out the following wellness provisions:
    1. A grant program to help small businesses provide workplace wellness programs, focusing on companies that employer fewer than 100 people who work 25 hours a week or more
    2. A requirement that restaurants put calorie counts directly on menus and make other nutritional information available
    3. Reporting requirements for group health plans to design and implement wellness programs
    4. Adding wellness, preventive measures, chronic disease management, maternity and newborn care, mental health, substance abuse, pediatric services and other areas as “essential benefits” for most health insurance plans
    5. Creation of a national goals for improving health through federally supported prevention, health promotion and public health programs – including measurable actions.
    6. A $25 million demonstration project to combat childhood obesity.
    7. Expand incentives for participation in workplace wellness programs.
    8. Greater premium discounts allowed for workplace wellness program participants.

    As Stein notes, it’s a good start on a journey we must undertake as a nation.

    Arvid R. “Dick” Tillmar is the president of Tillmar Connect LLC,, and has more than 45 years of experience in the health insurance industry.

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