Critics: EEOC wellness program rules create opportunities to discriminate

The National Business Group on Health, which represents large employers, praised the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's final rules on corporate wellness programs as providing the "much-[needed] clarification employers had asked for."

But other groups lambasted the rule as creating "opportunities to discriminate" and putting workers "between a rock and a hard place."

At issue is the sensitive medical and genetic information employers can collect to determine whether to allow discounts of up to 30 percent for employees and spouses participating in wellness programs. One rule applies to the Americans with Disabilities Act; the other rule to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. The rules were released Monday.

AARP criticized the rules as violating "both the letter and the spirit of the civil rights laws against disability and genetic discrimination" by requiring employees to either hand over sensitive medical and genetic information or pay thousands of dollars more for health insurance.

The National Partnership for Women & Families announcement cautioned that more people might refuse testing and treatments "for fear employers and insurers will use the information against them." It also registered concern that more people could face discrimination on the job and in insurance pricing because of the rules.

Women, older workers, workers of color and those with disabilities are at the highest risk, the group said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Health and Labor Committee, said the rules "will make it harder for employees to choose healthy lifestyles and to save money."

He added he might try to get the rules overturned in Congress.

To learn more:
- see the National Business Group on Health announcement
- here's the AARP announcement
- read the National Partnership for Women & Families announcement
- check out Alexander's announcement