Workers Told Get Checkups or Lose Insurance

Discussion
Jul 09, 2009

By George Anderson

It’s become almost universally agreed that prevention is
the easiest and least expensive way to stay healthy. Eat right, exercise,
don’t smoke, don’t drink to excess and other steps are seen as the
means to ward off many chronic diseases and causes of death.

Many companies offering health insurance have begun offering
voluntary programs, sometimes with financial incentives, designed to identify
potential health problems and deal with them early. Until now, as a Wall
Street Journal
article points out, most companies have not mandated tests
or behaviors over concerns about the legality of such actions.

An exception to that rule is AmeriGas Propane Inc., which
has given workers the option of going for medical checkups or losing their
medical coverage.

Bill Katz, vice president for human resources, told the Journal that
the company began mandating physicals and a variety of diagnostic tests because “optional
programs just don’t work.”

According to the consulting firm of Towers, Perrin, Forster & Crosby,
45 percent of companies are considering or planning to add penalties for
workers who do not participate in wellness programs.

While mandated programs may help protect the health of
workers, not everyone is on board with the concept.”This is a personal health
matter,” Gerry Shea, assistant to the president of the AFL-CIO, told the Journal. “To
bring it into the workplace and tie it to benefits is inappropriate. It’s
like Big Brother.”

The AmeriGas program has not had time to prove itself out
one way or the other yet, said Mr. Katz. But, he added, the hope is that
it will help “improve the health of our employees and save money over time.”

Discussion Question: Are you
in favor of companies mandating certain tests or personal behaviors as
a requirement for medical coverage?

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13 Comments on "Workers Told Get Checkups or Lose Insurance"


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David Livingston
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Employers should be allowed to mandate checkup as part of any normal security measure. It would be the sames as using a credit report, background check, or lie detector test. Failure to comply should be grounds for dismissal. This could change if government health care is expanded and employers and their insurance companies are no longer on the hook for medical expenses. However I wonder if the tax levy on employers would go up if they employed unhealthy people?

Joan Treistman
Guest
11 years 10 months ago
I had to indicate “no” to the requirement for tests and/or behavior for medical insurance. If the question had been about offering discounts or more coverage to those who take the tests and fit certain behavioral criteria I would have said “yes.” I believe the discussions and revelations around universal health coverage make it clear that taxpayers are covering the emergency and critical care for individuals who do not get to a doctor in time to prevent or deal with medical problems before they flare up. Preventative medicine and regular checkups can save insurance carriers and employers money and ensure attendance at work. So why not integrate doctor visits and behavioral guidelines into the type of insurance employers offer and what employees have to contribute? It’s a win/win for the employee, the employer, and the insurance company. However, to eliminate coverage as a penalty for not meeting requirements defeats the overall objective of reducing costs and increasing care. In fact, the results will be just the opposite. The way to achieve the goal is through… Read more »
Mel Kleiman
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

He who pays has the right to set the rules. The insurance companies have been doing this for years. Why should the company that pays most of the premium not expect its employees to either do things that help them control the cost or pass the increased cost on to the individuals?

One caveat: a company cannot use physical condition as a reason not to make a job offer under ADA.

Marc Gordon
Guest
Marc Gordon
11 years 10 months ago

It’s easy to penalize workers for not meeting certain standards of health. In fact some could say it’s a cop out by the employers.

A real solution might be to subsidize health club memberships, offer nutrition counseling, and finding ways to make the work place less stressful.

But I think this would be asking too much from companies looking for an easy way to reduce costs…and a responsibility to the well being of their staff.

mike williams
Guest
mike williams
11 years 10 months ago

One reason I voted “no” to the requirement was because, as stated, it was unclear whether being diagnosed with an ailment would require the employee to go through the treatment as recommended by the Health Care provider of the employer.

Warren Thayer
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

As with much of America today, there’s too much of a feeling of entitlement with this, along with no sense of personal responsibility. Why should employers be penalized for the poor health choices (and that’s what we’re talking about here–choices) of their employees? Sorry, this is one time we may need big brother, since all the little brothers and sisters just aren’t behaving. Most states require seat belts in cars, and helmets on the heads of motorcyclists. Yet you’ll find the nut jobs who insist on their “right” not to follow these common sense rules. As a volunteer firefighter/rescue worker, I see the consequences on the highways all the time. If we don’t focus on prevention, but just let everyone have the “right” to do their own thing health-wise and expect employers or the government (and boy does that scare me!) pick up the expense and consequences, the system’s going to collapse.

Carla Williamson
Guest
Carla Williamson
11 years 10 months ago

Americans have come to see healthcare as a right and not a privilege. I think it’s reasonable for companies to restrict coverage by applying requirements like preventative healthcare. There needs to be an element of personal responsibility, which seems to be ignored in this whole healthcare debate.

Dawne Richards
Guest
Dawne Richards
11 years 10 months ago

I think this is just one more way that many businesses are taking advantage of current economic conditions and finding ways to squeeze workers that would have been unacceptable a few years ago. I think it’s OK to require the checkup, but it’s a slippery slope from there, because what if the employee refuses to follow the recommendations made as a result of the checkup? The mandate will turn into yet another money-saver for employers, because they will simply begin refusing coverage to employees who don’t comply.

What’s next? Do we tell the corner-office executive to lose 20 pounds or find a new job? There should be a limit to how involved in personal choices an employer should be.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Workers who get health care coverage from employers should thank their lucky stars that they have it, and should go along with any mandates their employers impose.

Once you’re outside of a corporate environment, you’ll not only spend upwards of $1,500 per month for family coverage, but there’s no guarantee you’ll be covered. Innovation on the part of employers is welcome news for employees.

Kevin Price
Guest
Kevin Price
11 years 10 months ago
Honest people can have honestly different points-of-view on the ‘best’ approach. While few can disagree with the notion that preventative choice behaviors (i.e., not smoking, exercising, etc.) would lead to a more healthy population and likely lower costs for the medical insurance system, the disagreements start to fly when we ask the question of ‘exactly how’ to change behavior. One way to NOT go, IMHO, is for the government to get involved trying to legislate behavior since everyone but the naive knows THAT approach will not work. Rather, people act in a way they believe is in their own self-interest. The issue should be addressed, therefore, by helping to make it even more attractive to act in what is truly in one’s own self-interest. This thinking leads to programs which incentivize good health practices and, comparatively, penalize bad health practices, with the purpose being to encourage healthy behaviors. Even then, behavior change takes a long, long time. This company (AmeriGas) has chosen one approach…and it is directionally correct though, arguably, specifically draconian. Still, I applaud… Read more »
Debbie Tewes
Guest
Debbie Tewes
11 years 10 months ago

I think that employers are already asking for too much personal information when it comes to employees. If a check up would be mandatory for insurance purposes, this would clear the way for insurance companies and employers asking for a DNA analysis to see which diseases or illnesses anyone is predisposed to. This is already being kicked around now. This prying into our personal life has got to end. Whose idea was it to do a credit check for employment purposes? What has one got to do with the other? No wonder personal identity theft is on the rise.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

I was surprised by the large number of “no” responses–which in fact are (currently) a majority–though many are probably wary of saying yes to an idea that is fraught with dangers: medical issues are traditionally private between a doctor and patient, and involving the employer is problematic; also, how intrusive can an employer be in enforcing off-site behavior(?): e.g. I’m sure everyone would agree prohibiting employee theft is legitimate, but allowing employers to randomly search employees’ homes is not (though I suspect one panelist here might be OK with that).

Also problematic is the idea that prevention is always cheap: one employee at my company equates “preventive care” with spending $1000s every year on various (questionable) tests and examinations.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
11 years 10 months ago

Mandating is one way to get compliance, of course. However, there are employers, like mine, and other orgs that offer rebates and other incentives if you maintain a healthy lifestyle. This is a much more positive and productive way of gaining compliance and reducing healthcare costs. Here’s a program that worked….

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