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Focusing the State House on Wellness

Last week, IHRSA public policy staff and our Massachusetts lobbyist travelled to the state house to increase support for extending the state’s wellness tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of this year.

Why would the Massachusetts wellness tax credit vanish on January 1, 2018? Was this intentional?

Five years ago, Massachusetts passed healthcare legislation that contained innovative strategies for preventative health and wellness. The wellness tax credit, one of the strategies enacted, allows small businesses (under 200 employees) to offset the cost of designing and implementing workplace wellness programs. Businesses can claim a tax credit for 25% of the cost of their wellness programming, at a cap of $10,000 per business per year.

Referred to as “sunsetting,” legislators may choose to limit a funding stream, program, law, or initiative to a set number of years, in effect creating an expiration date for the legislation. Sunsetting can act as a best practice for elected officials and their staff to re-evaluate laws and programs after a number of years, in light of new information and budget constraints.

IHRSA has a keen interest in protecting the wellness credit, which can be used to purchase or subsidize gym memberships. It can also be used to fund employee stress management and nutrition programs, in addition to similar health promotion initiatives.

We believe that financial tax incentives for exercise work to create an environment where a healthy lifestyle is easier to achieve, based on encouragement by policy makers and company leadership.

At the state house, we met with the office of Senator Jason Lewis, who co-chairs the public health legislative committee.

The good news is that state legislators will use the fall to tackle healthcare cost containment, including re-working a law that created the tax credit in 2012. With that momentumcontaining healthcare costs through prevention and wellnessIHRSA will advocate for continuing the wellness tax credit. Earlier this year, we convinced the Maine legislature to continue that state’s wellness tax credit (instead of repealing the credit), helping the state incentivize a healthier and more active workforce.

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