By Joanna Solloway
CVS has recently implemented a new policy that requires employees to report health information including height, weight, body fat, blood pressure, and other health indicators. Those employees who refuse to submit such information will be fined $50/month. Such policies are not uncommon among employers looking to cut healthcare costs. Some companies already go much further than CVS by encouraging employees to meet certain benchmarks. Regardless, CVS’ policy is renewing the debate regarding the appropriateness of an employer demanding private health information from its employees in order prevent premium increases.
CVS and its supports insist that the new policy is designed to incentivize employees to make healthier life choices and to better manage their healthcare costs. Opponent’s of CVS’ plan and of similar employer requirements argue that screening requirements intrude upon employee privacy and effectively force participation in order to avoid monetary fines.
Companies such as CVS are responding to the expected increases in healthcare costs that they will face when President Obama’s health care reform law goes into effect in 2014. An August survey shows that more than sixty percent of employers anticipate paying more for their employees’ health insurance under the new law. CVS maintains its stance that the policy is intended to make its workforce healthier and insists that the company will never actually see the results of the test.
A major question surrounding CVS’s policy is how well the policy will work in actually encouraging employees to make better lifestyle choices. Certainly, there is no indication that the plan requires employees to make better choices regarding their health. In addition, the results on companies that more aggressively tie financial rewards and penalties to lifestyle choices are inconclusive as to whether or not such programs improve health and lifestyle. Furthermore, even if employees “voluntarily” submit to testing or to more rigorous lifestyle programs, there is no guarantee that health care costs will always remain stagnant or decrease.