U.S. CEO Obamacare Support Threatened Over Wellness Program Lawsuits

Obamacare support from leading U.S. CEOs may end if the president does not back off on challenges to workplace wellness programs. CEOs insist these wellness programs are in full compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The purpose of wellness programs is to control healthcare costs by reducing risk factors that can lead to chronic conditions or diseases that are expensive to treat, such as tobacco-related illnesses, diabetes, and hypertension. A provision in the 2010 healthcare law grants employers the right to reward employees who participate in a wellness program and penalize employees who do not participate.

A source tells Reuters that unless President Obama stops targeting companies that have created wellness programs under the 2010 provision, leading U.S. CEOs will consider moving squarely into the anti-Obamacare camp. Maria Ghazal, vice president of Business Roundtable, a group made up of the chief executives for more than 200 U.S. corporations, says the recent lawsuits are shocking because the companies’ programs comply with the ACA.

“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.”

Members of the Business Roundtable are expecting to meet with President Obama on Tuesday, where they may express their concerns.

Three recent lawsuits filed by the Obama Administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have angered U.S. CEOs, who have shown Obamacare support up until now. In one lawsuit, the EEOC filed suit against Honeywell International because the EEOC maintains the company has instituted punishments of up to $4,000 for employees who do not participate in the company’s wellness program. The EEOC also insists the medical testing required to participate in Honeywell’s program violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

CEOs have shown Obamacare support mainly because of the wellness program provision. Under this provision, employers can create workplace programs in which employees can participate in order to reduce the cost of coverage. Workers who participate in a company’s wellness program can receive a 30 to 40 percent reduction in the cost monthly premiums, deductibles, and health-care related costs. That reward can go further to 50 percent for those employees that participate in an employer-created program designed to reduce or prevent tobacco use.

As Reuters points out, U.S. CEOs pulling back on Obamacare support could have disastrous effects for not only the president, but employees as well. Although large corporations are unlikely to scrap employer-sponsored healthcare coverage altogether, these companies may decide to give employees a fixed amount of money to purchase health insurance on a private exchange. Such a move would cap healthcare spending by the companies, but would likely cost employees more in healthcare-related spending.