Julie Appleby of Kaiser Health News wrote a piece appearing in Monday’s USA Today Money explaining that more employees are being asked to roll up their sleeves for medical tests — and to exercise, participate in disease-management programs and quit smoking to qualify for hundreds, even thousands of dollars’ worth of premium or deductible discounts.
From the article:
“Proponents say such plans offer people a financial incentive to make healthier choices and manage chronic conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, which are driving up health care costs in the USA. Even so, studies of the effect of such policies on lifestyle changes are inconclusive. And advocates for people with chronic health conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, fear that tying premium costs directly to test results could lead to discrimination.
Employee reaction has also been mixed. “It’s an invasion of privacy,” says Bradley Seff, 54, a court reporter who in August 2010 filed a lawsuit against his employer, Broward County, Fla., for introducing such a plan.
Nonetheless, such plans appear to be the wave of the future. Faced with crippling health care costs, the number of employers embracing such programs inched up from 49% in 2010 to 54% last year — and more say they expect to do so soon, according to a survey by consultants Aon Hewitt. Big-name participants include insurer UnitedHealthcare, car rental firm Hertz, postage meter maker Pitney Bowes and media owner Gannett, owner of USA TODAY. More employers are expected to adopt them starting in 2014, when the health law — if the Supreme Court upholds it — would allow them to offer larger incentives or penalties.
“We’re seeing a big move in this direction driven by employers’ concern about rising health costs and their sense that employee behavior has a lot to do with high costs,” says Kevin Volpp, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, who has studied the use of such incentives.”
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