Returning after a weeks recess, congressional leaders today introduced a bill that would provide tax credits to businesses that implement wellness programs for their employees.
Co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), the Healthy Workforce Act of 2007 would offer a tax break of up to $200 per employee for the first 200 employees and up to $100 per employee thereafter for businesses that offer comprehensive wellness programs.
In America, we dont have a healthcare system, Harkin said Monday at a news conference on Capitol Hill. We have a sick-care system, he said, adding that while schools and communities should also focus on preventive care, businesses have the expertise, resources and enlightened self-interest to promote wellness programs.
To be eligible for the credit, company programs must include at least three of the following four components: health awareness and education; behavioral change; a supportive workplace environment; and an employee engagement committee to design programs. Also, employers can receive the tax credit for 10 years after establishing new qualified wellness programs.
In a letter endorsing the bill, the American Heart Association said an estimated 140 million U.S. adults are overweight, and 66 million are obese, placing them at increased risk for heart disease and stroke, and costing America about $117 billion a year. The return on investment for corporate health management programs range from $1.49 to $4.91 per dollar spent, the letter said. This legislation makes providing these programs more attractive and financially viable for more employers.
The Congressional Budget Office has not released cost estimates on the bill, and Harkin said the legislation could be added to a tax-related bill in the fall. -- by Jessica Zigmond