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Posts Tagged ‘chronic disease’

04
Nov

Wellness Programs in PPACA

Written by dreilly. Posted in education, health care reform, PPACA, premium costs

The debate over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) may have divided Congress and even theelectorate, but some areas of law have bi-partisan support.  One such area is the promotion of wellness initiatives.

It’s no secret that health costs in the United States have been increasing faster than wages or inflation for many years.  We’re on an unsustainable track.  But a close look at actual claims shows that as much as 75% of expenditures go toward the care and treatment for chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, asthma, blood pressure and cholesterol problems and the biggest one, obesity.   It’s been said that obesity is an epidemic in the Unites States and poor weight management can be blamed for a number of these other chronic illnesses.

But here’s the point.  Chronic diseases are often preventable, and if not, they’re at least controllable in most cases.  While many can point to genetics and heredity as root causes of disease, it’s obvious that lifestyle choices like smoking, alcohol abuse, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise are main causes for many people.

Promoting wellness as a means to change behavior isn’t a new concept, but provisions in PPACA will encourage better practices in this area.  For starters, small employers will be eligible this year for grants to launch wellness initiatives.  The program will offer up to $200 million to employers with fewer than 100 full time employees who did not have a wellness program in place when the law passed on March 23, 2010.  Details have yet to emerge, but the application process should be known by the end of the year.

Beginning in 2014 employers will be permitted to discount employee health premiums by as much as 30% for those who participate in wellness programs or for those who reach certain measurable health targets.  The discount could be increased to as much as 50% at the discretion of Secretary of Health and Human Services.  These allowances should encourage employers to support employees with wellness initiatives, which in turn could reduce health costs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be tasked with providing technical support to employers as a means to assist employers launch and manage their programs.   Additionally, CDC will be responsible for reporting back to Congress about best practices as means for improving the law’s allowances.

The debate over PPACA is far from over.  Litigation, new legislation, funding, all are issues that could derail portions of the law or even the law itself.  But regardless of the outcomes here, it would be nice to see some true successes result from the practical wellness approaches included in the law.  We just might see some lower costs if we can get ourselves off the couch.  Fat chance?

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