Please briefly describe your company and its contribution to an innovative and disruptive health, wellness, benefits and/or insurance industry?
I am the principal in Tawshunsky Law Firm PLLC and provide advice to clients on a broad range of employee benefits issues, including wellness programs. I have spoken and published articles on wellness programs.
How long have you been involved in the industry?
I have over 30 years of experience in employee benefits law. My work on wellness programs began with the enactment of HIPAA in 1996. In addition to the well-known privacy protections, HIPAA contained nondiscrimination provisions that gave special treatment to wellness programs. Those provisions are administered jointly by the Departments of the Treasury, Labor and HHS. I directed the IRS team working on the 3-agency nondiscrimination regulations. When the Affordable Care Act was enacted, it updated and modified the wellness program provisions. I was a senior member of the IRS and Treasury team that, along with Labor and HHS, produced the ACA wellness regulations.
How have your previous roles lead you to your current position and where do you see your next big move within your company to serve as an agent of change?
My experience with the government has given me a unique perspective both on the substantive requirements of the wellness regulations and the purposes they are designed to serve. This background is very helpful in advising clients on compliance with the regulations.
Wellness programs continue to evolve and I expect my primary role to be working with clients to ensure that they are able to implement innovative designs to improve employee health and well-being and achieve employer objectives, while complying with the law and avoiding the very substantial penalties for violations.
What do you see as the most disruptive innovation in healthcare, benefits, well-being or technology to be today and what do you see around the corner?
There are several major disruptions that are taking place, some positive and some potentially less so. Advances in technology, such as fitness trackers, make it feasible for employers to monitor compliance with wellness programs but also raise privacy concerns. The mergers that are taking place among health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacies, and others are restructuring the provision of health care in ways that could significantly affect employers.
Coming around the corner is technology that allows continuous monitoring of various health conditions, which could lead to further evolution of wellness programs.
What, in your opinion, is the largest obstacle facing employers today? What do you believe is the number one solution (if you had to choose one) to overcome that obstacle? What has your company done to incorporate this solution today? What is your long-term solution to tackle this challenge?
One of the biggest challenges for employers in implementing a wellness program is to obtain buy-in from employees. Most employees are motivated to improve their health, but they are also concerned about privacy and what they may regard as employer attempts to control their life outside of working hours. One of the most important ways to overcome this is to develop the wellness program in consultation with employees and to allow employees to have meaningful input into the design of the program. Wellness programs that are designed exclusively by management and their advisers and then issued as decrees from on high, may create resentment and undermine morale rather than improving it.
How do you envision the future of healthcare five years from now? Ten years from now?
That is almost impossible to predict. Just over the past few years, we have seen wild swings in government policy and dramatic changes in the private sector, and there is no reason to expect things to settle down any time soon. Employers, insurers and others will need to be alert and informed about ongoing developments and sufficiently nimble to adapt.
What are three things you do each day to improve your own health and well-being?
- Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit and minimize sugar and refined carbohydrates.
What is the most recent innovative or even “crazy” thing you have done to improve your health or well-being?
Intermittent fasting. There are many variations and I expect the effectiveness of any particular schedule will vary greatly among different individuals.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that you would pass along to others just entering the industry?
Establish long-term goals but be prepared to adjust the methods of achieving them as circumstances change.
Do you utilize health and/or wellness apps and if so what are your top three?
The only ones I use regularly are Wahoo Runfit and JKZ Series 1.