Fridays (with Benefits) - Taking wellness benefits beyond the workplace

Just when we were getting used to writing "employee wellness programs" it looks like things are changing a bit! Now, in an interesting development for the growing marketplace, individual buyers may be able to enroll in wellness benefits through state-run or specialty programs.

These offerings may not be common just yet, but this headline caught our attention. Let's dive in.

Health-Contingent Wellness Programs Enter Individual Marketplace - Kelsey Waddill, Health Payer Intelligence

According to the article, states that choose to participate will allow buyers to enroll in individual wellness benefits programs -- not only to improve health, but also to help lower health care costs. And the states even have some flexibility, with the option to package benefits as cost savings on premiums, or different types of financial incentives.

Of course, there's an approval process determined by each state. But as long as proposed programs meet the same standards as employer-based wellness rewards, there should be no problems with alignment.

For example, if a proposed plan design is based on healthy outcomes, "the desired outcome must be attainable and must have an alternative for those who cannot achieve it for health-related reasons" according to the author.

Additionally, all participating states must restrict their wellness program rewards to 30% of the individual health plan's cost. The only exception is if the wellness program includes tobacco prevention or cessation elements.

And most importantly, proposed wellness benefits can't negatively affect health care coverage to participants.

We're going to keep a close eye on this. While we're unclear how goals-based wellness incentives can efficiently be tracked, we're always happy to see the burgeoning wellness benefits market grow, allowing more people to reap rewards for positive growth. We'll report back if--and when-- these state-run programs expand to more people in more locations.

Wellness necessities

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Fridays (with Benefits) is a weekly roundup of the latest headlines about employee benefits -- from FSAs to fitness programs and everything workplace wellness. It appears every Friday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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