March 27, 2013

Testing, testing

You may be aware of recent news stories documenting a new change in policy for all employees of CVS Pharmacy, which now requires all of the nearly 200,000 workers who are on CVS’s health plan to submit their weight, body fat, glucose levels and other vitals or (if they don’t submit these test results) pay a monthly fine of $50 a month (which adds up to $600 a year in additional insurance costs).Employees who agree to the testing will see no change in health insurance rates.

When I first shared this story on the Just Stop Eating So Much! facebook page, some readers expressed outrage, noting that CVS Pharmacy was enlisting a sort of “Big Brother” approach to health insurance. News reports state that other critics call this new policy coercion — worrying that the company could potentially use the information to start firing unhealthy workers.

Yet 12NewsNow reports that CVS, which is based in Rhode Island, claims the health screening is voluntary and that the company would never actually see the test results in question. 12NewsNow goes onto report that in an email to ABC News, CVS explained that its “benefits program is evolving to help our colleagues take more responsibility for improving their health and managing health-associated costs.”

What’s more, according to ABC News, CVS insists that the use of health screenings by employer-sponsored health plans is quickly becoming a common practice. This set internet chat on fire with chat boards boasting questions from posters wondering if similar programs and policies are legal.

Although contrary to public opinion, I personally do not see the harm in these sorts of tests. The fact is, many of us are overweight and don’t realize it — either because of denial, misinformation or simply not having access to test results like these that are real indicators of our overall health. Somewhere along the line, we have given up our personal responsibility in matters of our own health. Take it from me, someone who used to weigh over 450 pounds and was completely “out of touch” with the reality of my situation — much less the potential health hazards of being that morbidly obese. It all began with not being informed. And I was happily ignorant. Or so I thought. (Turns out I wasn’t so happy with all the side-effects of weighing that much as many loyal readers of this blog know.)

Since CVS Pharmacy has gone on record stating that these numbers will not be used against employees, it seems there would potentially be legal recourse if that did not turn out to be the case.

But just as important as the potential legal issues, it’s time we stopped lying to ourselves and living in denial. Our obesity problem is worse than ever before and yet many of us do not realize we are overweight or refuse to acknowledge it as the real health crisis that it is. The more we know about our medical conditions and our overall health, the more we can start making small, significant changes that will help us feel better and live longer.

ABC News’ chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser commented on this matter to ABC News, stating, “The goal of these kinds of programs is to end up with a healthier work force. If your employees are healthy they’re going to work better and they’re going to cost the employer a lot less money.”

Is that really such a bad thing? To be healthier? If this kind of free testing helps us be more informed, where’s the harm in that?

As always, I welcome your opinion and insights. So whether you agree with me or not, I’d love to hear from you on this and any other similar issue. In the meantime, here’s to all of us being more informed and, as a potential result, healthier!

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4 Responses to “Testing, testing”

  1. Crystal says:

    I agree with this practice. The company I work for gives employees that are enrolled on a health coverage plan a “discount” if 3 of the 5 items we are measured on are within a certain guideline. Blood pressure, Glucose levels, waist circumference, HDL level and overall cholesterol. It’s certainly an incentive to me to choose a healthier lifestyle.

  2. Walt says:

    Interesting post and yes we all need to be concerned about our weight and h=
    ealth. Fat tax is not an option. Scaring a person into a healthy life styl=
    e, dosen’ t make one automatically make a smart change in lifestyle . It do=
    es.. Make one feel demeaned and inferior..penalized as a criminal robbing f=
    rom their fellow workers. In todays economic situation, it reduces the inco=
    me of someone who is probably already struggling. Those means cuts in abili=
    ty to provide a better life style.. Cheaper less healthy food choices and d=
    iminished choice to pay for activity that would get them out and moving. It=
    might be just enough to make a decision to not seek medical help because c=
    o-pays cannot be met or to cut meds so that money can provide for a loved o=
    Does this help the employees or does it help the Crporate bottom line ? I =
    am overweight and take an active role over my 63 years to change my lot in =
    life. To have a big organization tell me how I must live..or pay a penalty/=
    tax is just wrong. It violates personal liberty. Good companies should dire=
    ct their attention toward providing programs at reduced rates programs to =
    teach better lifestyle choices etc. To invest in their workforce and reduce=
    expense of their bad health and habits.
    “You can lead a horse to water”… We each know what we have to do. Fineing=
    us to make us change is not helping us it just costs you less.=20

    Walt Rose

  3. Gregg says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your point of view — and how this topic relates to you, Crystal. I really appreciate your comments!

  4. Gregg says:

    I certainly appreciate your point of view, Walt — as other readers of this blog surely do as well. Thank you very much for taking time to add your insights to this topic. Your analogy of leading a horse to water is right on. Thank you again.

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