Tax credits proposed for employee wellness

New proposed legislation would give tax incentives for businesses to implement workplace comprehensive health management (wellness) programs.

In addition, the bill, known as the Healthy Workforce Act, would benefit workers, lower health care costs, and promote a workplace culture of health, according to its co-sponsors, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR).

The bill proposes a tax credit of up to $200 per employee for the first 200 employees, and up to $100 per employee thereafter, to businesses whose wellness programs quality.

To do so, programs must include such components as health awareness and education, plus health risk assessments and screenings; behavior change programs relating to such things as obesity, tobacco use, substance abuse, and nutrition; “meaningful incentives” for program participation, such as a reduction in health premiums or allowing employees to exercise during the workday; and an employee committee that tailors wellness programs to meet the needs of the workforce at a particular company.

An employer can receive the tax credit for 10 years after establishing new qualified wellness programs.

The intent of the Healthy Workforce Act is to encourage businesses to educate and motivate their employees to pay more attention to their health, say Harkin and Smith.

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