Watch Your Weight for Health Insurance
In a survey released by Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health, 15% of employers need employees to undergo biometric screening. In general - employees have to undergo blood tests to screen blood sugar and cholesterol, take their weight and waist measurements. "There are some companies saying, 'gee, we're spending an awful lot on health care, we would like you to do certain things,'" says Adam Stavisky, a Fidelity benefits consultant.
3% of the employers said they would cut benefits of employees who did not complete the screenings. Benefit experts feel that it is not wrong to expect workers to fill these criteria as this is part of a routine health check and people can work towards a healthier future, once they know how they fare health wise.
"It's something that everybody needs to have for their own sake," says Helen Darling, president and CEO of the NBGH. "The people who might claim that they are discriminated against would be the very people you'd want to have a primary care physician, and talking to doctors and nurses."
Biometric screenings are soon becoming the mainstay of modern corporate programs; almost 40% of employers want to tie biometric measurements to premiums or health incentives. A third of the companies reward employees for lowering their cholesterol or blood pressure and dropping weight.
Critics are worried with the practice of "outcomes-based incentives" as it sums up to insurance underwriting and decreases access to health care, which in turn would defeat the purpose of The Affordable Health Care. . "There's real concern that if people perceive some of the new incentives rules as penalizing people for their health behaviors, then that could actually distance people from accessing health care," says Paul Terry, CEO of Stay Well, an employer wellness company that administers biometric screenings.
Employers who want to charge premiums based on biometric tests must also legally allow employees who fail the tests to pay the same amount by providing a doctor's note or enroll themselves in a program to achieve their goal. They can get the same benefits by participating in health programs.
Stay Well recommends that companies should reward people for taking the biometric tests and setting realistic targets.
"Rather than simply saying hit the outcome or else," Terry says, "Why wouldn't we say to employees, show us some progress that you're moving in the right direction in order to achieve the reward?"
Hannah Punitha (IRDA Licence Number: 2710062)
Jen Wieczner, MarketWatch