Workplace Wellness Could Get a Boost From New Bill

New Wellness bill

Corporate wellness programs looking to keep employees on track with health and physical activity goals can always use an extra incentive, especially come mid-year. Companies interested in creating a culture of wellbeing recognize the importance of engaging employees inside and out of the workplace so they see the program as a valuable addition to their lives.

What’s needed is motivation. Many workers today are aware of the benefits of having a healthy lifestyle and being active, yet fail to exercise or pay attention to nutrition. Additionally, other factors like the benefits of technology with online shopping, video gaming, cell phone usage, etc. and costly gym membership are causing some to lead to a more sedentary lifestyle.

That’s why many employers see some sort of economic incentive the answer to this challenge. Numerous studies have shown that providing an incentive usually motivates workers to participate at least at the minimum level. Education about wellness isn’t enough, garnering participation and maintaining engagement is critical to a successful wellness program. Companies may be in luck and possibly get a little help from the federal government on this one too.

A recent bill was reintroduced to Congress on March 1 called the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act that would allow medical account tax deductions to be applied to certain costs associated with staying active.

Employers that offer a health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) where employees save pretax dollars for qualified medical expenses would benefit from this new legislation.

The PHIT bill would make it possible for workers to utilize their HSA or FSA to pay for health prevention activities such as exercise videos, youth sports league fees, health club memberships and fitness equipment. The bill currently limits qualified sport and fitness expenses for an annual year up to $1,000 for an individual or $2,000 for a head of a household or family.

This would provide employees with an additional incentive to start and fund a HSA or FSA, as well as provide a financial incentive for staying physically fit by helping them save approximately 20% -30% on yearly expenses related to physical activity.

As the government looks at possible ACA changes, policymakers may look to attach this bill to a broader health care package for passage.  Efforts that support employee wellbeing and wellness will have a positive future impact on health insurance costs, worker morale and company culture. It does become a win-win for everyone.

Source:  EHS Today. What’s Your Incentive? April 2017. PP28-29.

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