With the Affordable Care Act expected to force employers to find more nimble ways to curb health care costs, Gov. Scott Walker has signed the “Healthy Jobs Act” into law, a new proposal that would offer tax credits to companies that provide workplace wellness programs.

On Thursday, Walker signed Wisconsin Senate Bill 73/Assembly Bill 78, first introduced in the state Senate in March 2013 by a bipartisan group of nearly 30 senators and representatives. The legislation includes provisions to create an “income and franchise tax credit” for businesses offering workplace wellness programs.

The credit or grant would equate to 30% of the amount that a small business employer pays in the taxable year to offer such programs. Small business is categorized as an employer with 50 or fewer employees.

“The total amount of workplace wellness program credits allocated to businesses in any fiscal year may not exceed $3,000,000,” according to the bill.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services will be responsible for administering the grants, according to the governor’s office.

All workplace wellness programs are under consideration. These include health or fitness programs as well as programs that look help with chronic disease prevention, weight management, stress management, worker injury prevention, health screenings, nutrition education and health or fitness incentive programs. 

“By implementing these programs, participating businesses not only have the chance to improve the wellbeing and productivity of their workers, but can also curb long term costs associated with chronic disease, reducing the burden on businesses and the state,” says Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau).

Recently, a Mercer study of more than 700 employers finds that many are considering wellness options to cut down health care costs. While 35% have already taken action to add or improve these supplemental programs, approximately 47% say they are considering this option to address penalties related to the excise tax, commonly known as the Cadillac Tax.

The excise tax – to be imposed in 2018 – is expected to tax employers 40% on the value of coverage exceeding $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families.

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