EEOC fighting Obamacare wellness provisions?
Leading U.S. CEOs, angered by the Obama administration's challenge to certain "workplace wellness" programs, are threatening to side with anti-Obamacare forces unless the government backs off, according to people familiar with the matter.This action by the EEOC is incoherent nonsense. The government on the one hand tells companies to engage in a program to make their employees healthier and on the other hand sues them for doing so. It just shows how liberals are at war with their own programs.
Major U.S. corporations have broadly supported President Barack Obama's healthcare reform despite concerns over several of its elements, largely because it included provisions encouraging the wellness programs.
The programs aim to control healthcare costs by reducing smoking, obesity, hypertension and other risk factors that can lead to expensive illnesses. A bipartisan provision in the 2010 healthcare reform law allows employers to reward workers who participate and penalize those who don't.
But recent lawsuits filed by the administration's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), challenging the programs at Honeywell International and two smaller companies, have thrown the future of that part of Obamacare into doubt.
The lawsuits infuriated some large employers so much that they are considering aligning themselves with Obama's opponents, according to people familiar with the executives' thinking.
"The fact that the EEOC sued is shocking to our members," said Maria Ghazal, vice-president and counsel at the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives of more than 200 large U.S. corporations. "They don't understand why a plan in compliance with the ACA (Affordable Care Act) is the target of a lawsuit," she said. "This is a major issue to our members."
"There have been conversations at the most senior levels of the administration about this," she added.
Business Roundtable members are due to meet Obama in a closed-door session on Tuesday, where they may air their concerns.
It is not clear how many members of the group, whose companies sponsor health insurance for 40 million people, are considering any action. It is also not clear if the White House can stop the EEOC from challenging wellness programs.
A threat of a corporate backlash comes at a time when Obama faces criticism even from his Democrats' ranks that he had devoted too much political capital to healthcare reform.