New proposed legislation would create a tax credit for employers that offer comprehensive wellness programs.

The Healthy Workforce Act, introduced earlier this month by Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR), would provide a tax credit of up to $200 per employee for the first 200 employees, and up to $100 per employee thereafter, to businesses whose wellness programs qualify.

To qualify for the tax credit, employee wellness programs would be required to include components such as health awareness programs and health risk assessments; behavior change programs relating to such things as tobacco use, obesity, physical fitness, nutrition, substance abuse and more; meaningful incentives for program participation; and an employee committee that tailors programs to meet workforce needs.

An employer can receive the tax credit for ten years after establishing new qualified wellness programs.

"By encouraging businesses to educate and motivate their employees to take their health seriously, we can take a significant step toward lowering healthcare costs and keeping our population healthy," said Senator Smith.