(Bloomberg Politics) — Is the Obama administration bent on destroying a core part of Obamacare?
That question is reportedly on the minds of corporate executives flying to Washington to meet with President Barack Obama on Tuesday. Members of the Washington lobby group Business Roundtable are said to be exasperated because the administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been suing companies over their wellness programs—which the companies say they implemented because of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).
Some executives are so keyed up by these lawsuits, against Honeywell International and two other businesses, that they’re threatening to side with anti-Obamacare forces if the EEOC doesn’t back off, Reuters reported Saturday. And with a Republican-led Senate convening in January, PPACA is likely to be back in the legislative spotlight.
Business Roundtable President John Engler in a letter Nov. 14 asked the cabinet secretaries who oversee PPACA to “thwart all future inappropriate actions against employers who are complying with” the law’s wellness rules, according to Reuters.
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You could forgive company executives for their confusion. A major tenet of PPACA was to encourage people to live healthier lifestyles by not smoking, controlling weight, and so on, in order to drive down costly emergency-room visits. So to boost preventative care, many companies have developed so-called wellness programs. Those programs must be voluntary for employees, but often come with incentives to push employees to submit to medical examinations and receive advice on fitness, nutrition, and other health issues. The EEOC argues that thousand-dollar surcharges on employees who don’t participate in the screenings essentially means the program isn’t voluntary.