Small Business Majority Convening Promotes Wellness Program Opportunities for Small Firms

Terry Gardiner

Original statement issued on April 5, 2012:

Small Business Majority and the Trust for America’s Health recently wrapped up a report with recommendations for ensuring small businesses have the resources they need to implement workplace wellness programs, which can minimize their coverage expenses by helping them maintain a healthy workforce. The report reflects a convening of business leaders, government officials, insurers, brokers and small business owners. Participants discussed provisions of the Affordable Care Act designed to help small business owners carry out wellness initiatives.

The group identified common challenges and opportunities that arise when advocating for and designing wellness programs for small businesses. They reviewed existing policies designed around wellness programs and also looked at new ones created under the federal healthcare law that have the potential to boost their effectiveness—specifically in the small business community.

Workplace wellness initiatives aren’t a new topic of discussion, and neither are the cost-saving opportunities they give employers. The real news is that the Affordable Care Act aims to boost incentives for small businesses to participate in wellness programs, through new policy avenues specifically suited to employers on the smaller end of the spectrum.

Below are the five sections of the report, with highlights from each.

1. The current landscape: Wellness programs for big businesses have a successful track record, but in the small business arena there’s a lack of data, awareness, resources and financial incentives that limits their presence.

2. Opportunities to improve uptake: The healthcare reform law provides opportunities to encourage small businesses to create wellness programs. For example, the state health insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, will expand coverage to more small businesses and feature workplace wellness incentives.

3. The workplace wellness model: Participants developed a visual diagram that shows how all aspects of workplace wellness fit together and what stakeholders’ roles are in increasing using of these programs among small businesses.

4. Challenges ahead: To increase the number of small businesses using wellness programs, groups like local chambers of commerce, insurers and brokers can be helpful.

5. Conclusions and next steps: Overall, this is a complex issue but it’s well worth exploring in order to help our nation’s chief job creators. Making sure exchanges are implemented to include effective wellness initiatives will be key, as will participation from small business groups of every kind.

Read the report, “Striving for a Healthier America Through Availability and Uptake of Workplace Wellness Programs in the Small Business Community,” here.