Senate GOP Labor Committee Leaders Introduce Resolutions to Block Administration Attack on Bipartisan Workplace Wellness Programs

Alexander, Isakson resolutions will prevent EEOC from moving ahead with 2 rules that make it harder for American workers to choose healthy lifestyles and save money

Posted on July 14, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 14 – Top Republicans on the Senate’s labor committee today introduced two resolutions to block the administration’s attack on workplace wellness programs, which allow employees to save money on their health care premiums by making healthy lifestyle choices. 

“Wellness programs are the only part of Obamacare that everyone agreed on—everyone except the EEOC,” Senate health and labor committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said: “Congress was clear in its support of workplace wellness programs in the health care law, which gave the administration the authority to allow employers to offer a 50 percent discount on health insurance premiums. But the EEOC is taking away that authority and overruling the actions of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, and Treasury, which have been clear in their regulations implementing the law.”

He added, “Since the EEOC has refused to listen to the concerns of Congress, the White House, and American business-owners, Congress must act to help employees seeking to improve their health, while bringing down their health insurance costs.”

“The latest regulations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have created another needless layer of bureaucracy for businesses,” said Isakson, who is chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety. “Unelected bureaucrats have no place overriding a law expressly passed by Congress and stopping business owners from offering wellness plans to help their employees improve their health. This is yet another example of the Obama administration ignoring the plain text of the president’s own health care law in order to appease special interest groups. I’m proud to join in this effort to prevent this blatant overreach and put business decisions back in the hands of employers who best understand their own workers’ health care needs.”

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, the EEOC's enforcement of workplace wellness programs has contradicted existing law and regulation.  For example, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), the commission sued one employer that was operating lawfully under the health care law.

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 ADA and GINA apply to employee wellness programs, but the rules are inconsistent with current law and bipartisan congressional intent. Congress asked the agency to “make significant changes” to its proposed wellness rules last year, but the final rules released were substantially similar to what the agency originally proposed.

The Alexander and Isakson resolutions introduced today 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 only needs a simple 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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