AARP Sues to Protect Health Privacy in Lawsuit Over Wellness Plan Rules

Citing privacy rights of its members, AARP is challenging new federal regulations governing employer wellness programs. In a lawsuit filed this week, the association says the rules penalize workers who do not wish to disclose their medical information.

Despite its name, many of AARP’s members aren’t yet retired—and that’s why the organization is suing the federal government over new rules for employer wellness programs.

In a lawsuit filed Monday against the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), AARP is seeking a preliminary injunction to block the rules, arguing that they will allow employers to penalize employees who prefer to keep their medical information private.

“These rules veer from the EEOC’s important role of protecting against discrimination,” AARP Foundation’s Senior Vice President for Litigation William Alvarado Rivera said in a news release. “AARP believes strongly that these rules violate the law, harm workers’ privacy rights, and must be changed.”

The regulations, which will take effect next year, apply to wellness plans that provide workers with incentives to get healthier—for example, by quitting smoking or losing weight—and benchmarks to meet. The rules allow employers to offer plan participants incentives of up to 30 percent (60 percent for couples) off health insurance premiums if they disclose confidential medical information that would otherwise be illegal to ask for, Reuters reported.

AARP says the rules will force Americans to make an unfair choice: forfeit their civil right to keep sensitive health information private or accept higher health insurance costs.

“Contrary to statutory law, the rules effectively enable employers to make employees ‘offers they can’t refuse,’” Rivera said. “These rules are likely to have an immediate, negative impact on workers who will have to face a lose-lose choice between sacrificing their civil rights and suffering financial hardships.”

Rivera and his team will represent AARP in the case. The organization says it brought the suit on behalf of roughly one-third of its nearly 38 million members who are either employed or actively looking for work.


Patrick deHahn

By Patrick deHahn

Patrick deHahn is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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