I read an interesting article this morning about how Penn State is going to start penalizing employees who get health insurance through the university but don’t participate in wellness screenings—to the tune of about $100 per month.
Like many other companies, they are asking those employees to go through some rather routine tests in order to assess their health. This practice has been going on for a while now. We had similar things at the lab, and at Ken’s previous employer, those who did the screenings and made some minor improvements in exercise and diet got incentives like gift cards or a couple of hundred dollars off of their health insurance costs.
This seems like a minor thing to me, but there is one prof at Penn State who is protesting this and saying that it violates his freedom and blah di fucking blah. I hate to break it to you, Professor, but you sound like a Grade A Asshole. I’m sure I’m not the only one you’ve heard this from, though.
First, your privacy isn’t being violated. These screenings are conducted through a private company, and your results are not released to the employer. Just like any other health care information, your results are protected under HIPAA.
Second, if you are purchasing your health care through your employer, they have the right to get you to submit to basic screening. They are subsidizing your insurance, and they do have the right to try to get the best return on their investment in you. If you strongly object to such scrutiny, you can buy your health insurance elsewhere. Perhaps through the upcoming exchanges via the Affordable Care Act?
The reality is that health insurance costs employers big bucks; that is especially true in the healthcare field. I had a couple of jobs where I was paying for my insurance for just myself, and my share was less than ten dollars a month. Things have really gone up since then, and I think it is fair and reasonable for an employer to ask their employees to work on overall health and wellbeing, as well as work on better choices when it comes to exercise and diet. No one is forcing people to do these things, but incentives definitely help. Screenings also help...if someone sees that their blood sugar is seriously high, it might prompt them to make an appointment with their doctor, for example.
To me, it is a win-win situation: the employer has to pay less for insurance, and the employee might see that he or she has some health issues they need to work on in order to get healthier. I can honestly say that the incentives through Ken’s former employer got me to start working out regularly, and once it became a habit, I don’t see myself ever giving it up. If places are shifting to penalties rather than incentives, I’m not sure I see the problem with that.
What do you think? Is this a reasonable request from an employer, or is it a violation of an individual’s privacy?