Professor Horwitz Publishes Article in Health Affairs on Wellness Incentives in the Workplace

LOS ANGELES, CA,March 4, 2013 – UCLA School of Law Professor Jill Horwitz has co-authored a new article that raises questions about cost savings from workplace wellness programs and the impact on less healthy workers. The article, “Wellness Incentives in the Workplace: Cost Savings Through Cost Shifting to Unhealthy Workers,” was published in the March issue of Health Affairs, which was released today. The article was co-authored by Brenna Kelly, an associate in the New York office of Ropes and Gray, and John E. DiNardo, a professor of economics and public policy at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor.

The Affordable Care Act encourages workplace wellness programs, chiefly by promoting programs that reward employees for changing health-related behavior or improving measurable health outcomes. Recognizing the risk that unhealthy employees might be punished rather than helped by such programs, the act also forbids health-based discrimination, the authors observe. While there may be valid reasons beyond lowering costs to institute workplace wellness programs, there is little evidence that such programs can easily save costs through health improvement without being discriminatory, the authors warn. Savings to employers may come from cost shifting, with the most vulnerable employees—those from lower socioeconomic strata with the most health risks—probably bearing greater costs that in effect subsidize their healthier colleagues, say Professor Horwitz and her co-authors.

To read an abstract of the article, please click here or visit the website for Health Affairs.

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