Is it your employers job to make sure you are staying healthy? You might be surprised that many employers are beginning to think that it is. In Alabama, state employees have until November 30th of this year to get screened for chronic illnesses like diabetes and hypertension if they want to keep their free health insurance. After 2010, those who are at risk for disease have to show they are taking step towards improving their health or pay $25 each month for their benefits.
Across the nation, employers are instituting "employee wellness programs" in an effort to cut down health care costs. Some programs rewards employees financially when they take healthy steps like quitting smoking, getting their regular checkups, or loosing weight.
But some companies are taking it a step further than that and are penalizing unhealthy employees by deducting more from their paychecks to cover the increased cost of healthcare. Or they may offer them less generous coverage than those employees that are healthy.
President Obama has claimed that employee wellness programs are vital to a company and for every $1 spent on these programs it saves $1.65 in healthcare expenses.
Advocates for privacy claim that employees should only be based on their work performance, not on their fitness level or conditiions.
Those on the opposite side claim that obese and those people with chronic illness take more sick days than healthier people and are less productive.
Does that mean we should we do away with employee fitness programs? Not necessarily. I enjoyed our companies employee wellness program. I received prizes like a new portable backpack cooler and more just for trying to live a healthier lifestyle. However, I would feel that my employer crossed the line if they penalized me because I was obese or suffered from a chronic illness. I can understand the employers point of view and the cost that is put upon them, but I also know that your employees moral is lost when they are singled out and penalized. I also know that having to pay more money isn't an incentive to get healthier a lot of times. It can do just the opposite. And when do you get to the point you are considered healthy again? Will your insurance company charge you less? Probably not. Will your employer charge you less even when you are healthy again? Who knows?
What's your take on being penalized by your employer?
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