Ever since the Affordable Care Act was passed, some employers have been trying to find a way to circumvent it. Your neighborhood pharmacy Rhode Island based CVS has a new health insurance initiative aimed at the privacy of its employees. CVS’ new policy requires that its employees must see a doctor and provide weight and height information to an independent third party provider, WebMD or face a penalty of fine of $50 per month. CVS is also requiring that its employees with health insurance stop smoking or enter a smoke cessation program. Now just about everyone was outraged over Mayor Bloomberg’s law on limiting drinks larger than 16 ounces. An employer somehow having access to personal health information of its employees smacks of a clear privacy invasion. And even though CVS says it will not be privy to the information, I doubt if any of the employees believe it. And they would have good reason to disbelieve it.
Employers who are having to provide health insurance under the Affordable Care Act are trying new and innovative ways to deny coverage like Papa John’s that wants to reduce hours of some employees to get around the law. And now CVS has a more innovative means to circumvent the Affordable Care Act by targeting unhealthy employees.
CVS states its new policy was in the best interests of employees’ health and well-being and the company would never see test results. That doesn’t even sound believable. According to company spokesman, Michael DeAngeelis, who says “We want to help our employees to be as healthy as they can be, which is why we decided to implement this plan.” If CVS wants their employees to be as healthy as they want to be, they could start a program based on eating less and moving more.
What CVS is probably planning on doing down the line is finding a way to get rid of its more undesirable and unhealthy employees. And what better way than to require that employees get health check-ups with weight and height information. If CVS wanted to do something to assist its employees’ well-being, they could have educational health seminars, reduced prices on gyms or exercise classes, reduced prices on nutritionists, provide written information to employees on healthy topics or any other number of ways to disseminate information to its employees. Information like requiring calorie counts in restaurants is what will start to diminish our increasing weights and obesity. Education is the key ingredient to assisting people to a better and healthier lifestyle.
Spreading fear and added stress over whether one’s job is at risk is not the way to accomplish a benefit to employees’ health. There are tests that are acceptable like requiring drivers to take an eye exam. I fail to see any benefit to an employee to get a height and weight test. That alone is not going to do anything for an employee but cause them to worry if they will be fired due to their gaining weight or smoking.
At some point, we need to call to task these employers who are out to provide anything but information in the best interest of the employees. They are looking for a way to unload some of their unhealthy employees.
Time will tell if CVS made a wise decision. If I were their lawyer I would advise against this practice. In the future, it may prove more costly than it’s worth. And if an employee’s privacy is violated, CVS should get ready to pay big bucks.