Can Your Healthcare Costs Go Up If You're Obese?
On July 1, 2007 new rules for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) went into effect. These new rules provide additional clarity around how employers can reward or penalize employees based a specific health results.
Clarian Health Partners Inc. was among the first companies to take advantage of these new rules. I first read about Clarian’s changes in an article published by MoneyNing. Since then further details have been announced and along with them a tremendous amount of controversy and discussion on the web.
Effective in 2009, Clarian will begin charging employees more for their health care coverage if they meet any of the following conditions: BMI (Body Mass Index) exceeds 30, Cholesterol levels are too high, Blood Pressure levels are too high,Glucose levels are too high, Smoking.
The price for not meeting these standards? $10 per paycheck if their BMI is too high, and $5 per paycheck for the others. Previously, Clarian had a program similar to many other companies that rewarded employees for staying in shape. But no more. The message is now stay in shape or pay the the price. Of the company’s 13,000 employees, about 8,000 are enrolled in the company’s health plan. The company estimates that as many as 34% of its employees will meet the definition of being obese, while it expects lower levels for other health measures. About 26% are tobacco users.
Clarian president and CEO Daniel Evans was quoted saying “For several years, we’ve had a reward program, where if you cease smoking and do a self-assessment, you receive a reduction in your [health care] premiums, [But] our health care costs were going up and our employees were not taking full advantage of the programs we had in place.”
Most would argue a carrot is more effective than a stick, and thus this bold move by Clarian is causing a great deal or stir amongst employees, companies, and worker support groups. Many argue that policies like this both invade employee privacy and confidentiality. Even with a controversy, a number of companies are changing to similar “stick” policies.
On one side, I can see the companies perspective on this around reducing costs and having a healthier workforce. On the other hand, I can fully understand the privacy issues and really question a companies right to tell an employee how to live their life.
I believe Clarian and similar companies are taking the right approach. Companies like Clarian have a responsibility to their shareholders, customers, and employees to keep costs down and profits up. They also want healthy employees who will be at work and have minimal health issues.
What are your thoughts on this issue? Would you work for a company that had a similar policy? If you were employed, would you continue to work there?