Tomorrow, the State of Ohio will launch a workplace wellness program called, Better You, Better Ohio.TM The program targets Ohioans who are at a greater risk for on-the-job injuries and work for businesses with 50 or fewer employees that do not already have workplace wellness programs. Enrollees will have access to resources including: health screening and a health assessment; a robust member health site; and digital coaching to help workers take charge of their health.
Mississippi industry groups this year seek to introduce the Workplace Wellness Tax Credit that would allow $1 million in tax credits for Mississippi employers who provide wellness programs for their employees. On the other hand, in West Virginia, House Finance Committee members grilled state administrators on a state wellness program that would reward public employees for completing health assessments and participating in healthy lifestyle and wellness programs. The landscape involving the legality and the availability of legislative and regulatory incentives to workplace wellness is dynamic.
FEDERAL AGENCY ACTIVITY
This week, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia provided judicial guidance to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) concerning rulemaking around workplace wellness. In 2016, AARP challenged EEOC "voluntary" wellness programs that permitted employers to charge employees 30% more if they refuse to disclose the medical and genetic information required by a wellness program. In December 2017, the court vacated the regulations and remanded the EEOC to redraft them this year. However, the court reconsidered, leaving the EEOC's rulemaking timeline within that agency's policy-making discretion.
Staying inside the Beltway, pending before the U.S. House of Representatives is H.R. 1313, the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act. The measure would change the U.S. labor code to allow employers to impose penalties of up to 30% of the total cost of the employee's health insurance on employees who do not provide genetic information to participate in an employer-sponsored wellness program.
BUT DOES IT WORK?
That's part of the debate. This week, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign published a working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, which calls into question wellness programs tied to financial incentives for employees. This story is far from the finish line, so we'll keep running it down.
Governor Doug Ducey signed into law a bill that limits initial opioid prescriptions to 5 days and sets a maximum of 30 days for certain patients receiving highly addictive analgesics. Other provisions of the bill call for $10 million to be spent treating opioid abusers who are underinsured and ineligible for Medicaid. Arizona state lawmakers unanimously approved the expedited legislative and regulatory plan during a special 4-day session in Phoenix last week.
THE FEDERAL AGENDA
In last night's State of the Union address and in a separate address by U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, the Trump administration reinforced its top health priority to curtail the opioid epidemic. The Surgeon General described the opioid epidemic as an "all hands on deck" crisis, calling on every man, woman, and child in the country to help fight addiction.
Making Our Way Around the Country
The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board unanimously approved a standard designed to protect hospitality housekeeping workers from workplace hazards. The standard seeks to make employers more accountable for written injury prevention programs, worker training, hazard evaluations, provision of personal protective equipment, incident investigation, and recordkeeping. The standard now moves to the state's Office of Administrative Law (OAL), which is tasked with ensuring it complies with California's Administrative Procedures Act.
The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down a provision of the state's workers' compensation act that exempted oil and natural gas companies from being sued when workers are injured or killed on the job. The statute reads, "for the purpose of extending the immunity of this section, any operator or owner of an oil or gas well ... shall be deemed to be an intermediate or principal employer." The case before the high court involved a trucker who was severely burned while working at an oil well site.
Legislation before the state senate could impact product liability claims in Missouri. A measure before the Senate Government Reform Committee would introduce a new "statute of repose" of 10 years for product defect claims. Currently, 19 states have statues of repose in product liability claims. The bill's sponsors look to improve the state's judicial climate to lure manufacturers back to the Show Me State.
RETAIL AND THE BIG GAME
The National Retail Federation (NRF) expects Americans will spend an average of $81.17 preparing for the NFL's biggest game this weekend. With about 188 million people set to watch the Patriots take on the Eagles Sunday, the NRF reports consumer spending surrounding the game is up 8.5 percent and should reach $15.3 billion by kickoff. In solidarity with the Bears and the Giants, we'll be watching the game mostly for the commercials. On the subject of retail, stay tuned to The Network this February as we pay special attention to retail topics across our channels and around the risk and insurance industry. Enjoy the game!