Starting with the next fiscal year (October 1, 2011), the PPACA authorizes an appropriation of $200 million over five years (fiscal years 2011 through 2015) for certain small businesses that implement wellness programs.[Section 1201 of H.R. 3590, adding section 2705 to PHSA]
- A five-year/$200 billion grant program will be available to small employers (less than 100 employees working 25 hours per week) that did not provide a wellness program as of March 23, 2010. The grants are intended to apply to "comprehensive" wellness programs that include the following components:
- Health awareness initiatives (including health education, preventive screenings and HRA(Health Risk Assessment)
- Efforts to maximize employee engagement (including mechanisms to encourage employee participation).
- Initiatives to change unhealthy behaviors and lifestyle choices (including counseling, seminars, online programs and self-help materials).
- Supportive environment efforts (including workplace policies to encourage healthy lifestyles, healthy eating, increased physical activity and improved mental health).
- It is expected that regulations will be issued to clarify various aspects of the program, such as the criteria for a qualifying wellness program, how to apply for a grant, etc.
Eligible employers seeking to participate in the grant program must submit an application to the Secretary of HHS that contains a proposal for a comprehensive workplace wellness program meeting the criteria and requirements listed above. However, the PPACA fails to indicate whether grants will cover part or all of the cost of a qualifying wellness program. It is anticipated that HHS will issue guidance on the grant application and other details surrounding workplace wellness programs prior to October 2011.