CEOs Could Withdraw ACA Support Over Wellness Program Lawsuits
Several major U.S. corporations are threatening to withdraw their tacit support of the Affordable Care Act unless the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission backs away from legal challenges filed against certain workplace wellness programs, according to sources close to the matter, Reuters reports.
Under the ACA, companies are authorized to reward employees who participate in the wellness programs. Specifically, the ACA allows financial incentives for employees participating in wellness programs that equate to up to 50% of employees' monthly health premiums, deductibles and other health insurance costs.
However, the EEOC recently filed a lawsuit against workplace wellness programs at Honeywell International and two smaller organizations, spurring criticism from employers who say they are in compliance with the ACA. EEOC said the wellness programs' medical testing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Business Groups To Meet With White House
Business Roundtable members are scheduled to discuss the issue with President Obama on Tuesday, Reuters reports. According to Reuters, Business Roundtable is comprised of CEOs of more than 200 large U.S. companies that provide health insurance to about 40 million U.S residents.
Maria Ghazal, vice president and counsel at Business Roundtable, said, "The fact that the EEOC sued is shocking to our members. They don't understand why a plan in compliance with the ACA is the target of a lawsuit. This is a major issue to our members." She added that Business Roundtable had already discussed the issue with officials "at the most senior levels of the [Obama] administration."
Potential Retaliatory Action
It is unclear how many members of the Business Roundtable are considering potential retaliatory action or if the Obama administration would be able to prevent EEOC from filing suit against companies' wellness programs, Reuters reports.
According to Reuters, if CEOs were to take action, they could support legal challenges to subsidies to help U.S. residents purchase health insurance plans through the ACA's federal insurance exchange, which have not previously been publicly supported by the Business Roundtable or its members.
In addition, CEOs are considering making themselves available for congressional hearings about amending or repealing the ACA. A source said that while CEOs "never did this before ... they could turn up the noise." The source added, "I don't think the White House would want the CEOs turning on them and supporting these efforts on the Hill."Meanwhile, the "nuclear option" would be for the companies to drastically change their employer-sponsored health insurance benefits, according to Reuters. While large companies are unlikely to stop offering coverage, they could provide employees with a particular amount of money to purchase coverage via a private insurance exchange to cap their companies' health care costs (Begley, Reuters, 11/29).
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