Senators introduce resolutions to block EEOC wellness program rules
Posted July 25, 2016
Top Republicans on the Senate’s labor committee introduced two resolutions to block the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) wellness program rules regarding the incentives employers can offer for employee participation.
A bipartisan provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act allowed employers to discount health insurance premiums by up to 30 percent — or 50 percent if approved by the Departments of Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services — for healthy lifestyle choices (like quitting smoking or maintaining a healthy cholesterol level) that help lead to reduced health care costs over time.
However, Lamar Alexander the chairman of the Senate health and labor committee and Johnny Isakson the chairman of the Senate subcommittee on employment and workplace safety say the EEOC enforcement of workplace wellness programs has contradicted existing law and regulation.
The EEOC issued final rules in May in response to concerns from Congress and American employers. The commission said the rules were intended to provide clarity about how the EEOC believes the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) apply to employee wellness programs.
The senators argue the rules are inconsistent with current law and bipartisan congressional intent. Furthermore, the senators say Congress asked the agency to “make significant changes” to its proposed wellness rules last year, but the final rules released were similar to what the agency originally proposed.
The Alexander and Isakson resolutions introduced and cosponsored by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) were issued under the Congressional Review Act to block the EEOC’s ADA and GINA final rules. Under the Congressional Review Act, the Senate and House vote on a joint resolution of disapproval to stop, with the full force of law, a federal agency from implementing a rule or regulation or issuing a substantially similar regulation without congressional authorization. A resolution of disapproval requires a majority to pass and cannot be filibustered or amended.
Earlier this Congress, Alexander and Isakson also introduced The Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act with Sens. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in the Senate and House Education and the Workforce Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) in the House to reaffirm existing law, which allows for employee wellness programs tied to a financial reward.
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