AARP sues EEOC over employer wellness program rules

AARP, the nation’s largest consumer interest group for Americans over 50, is suing the government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission over federal wellness rules that critics fear will effectively penalize workers who don’t disclose medical information as part of wellness programs, regardless of whether the person is enrolled in the company’s group health plan.  

Workplace wellness programs help rein in soaring costs of insurance premiums, which run an average of $6,435 for an individual, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (employees contribute $1,129 on average). The programs give incentives for workers to adopt healthy behaviors.

“As of January, when this new law goes into place, is – you can give a 30 percent incentive to somebody – that’s several thousand dollars – if they give their health information and submit to a medical exam,” CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus explained Thursday on “CBS This Morning.”

Seeking a preliminary injunction, AARP claims the rules, which are part of implementation regulations of Title I of the American with Disabilities Act, will compromise people’s privacy or make them vulnerable to discrimination.

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“AARP is correct in that we have to start think about privacy. That information may -- doesn’t mean it will -- but it could be used in discriminatory practices,” Agus said.

Wellness programs could include detailed medical questionnaires, biometric testing, weight assessment and preventive health screenings. 

“We need to build this wall: so health information on one side, employment decisions, corporate decision on another side. There really needs to build something in place to separate them,” Agus said. 

CBS News reached out the the EEOC, but a spokesperson declined to comment.