Friday, October 9, 2009

Tying Premiums to Weight Targets Source of Concern

Partnership Executive Vice President Corinne G. Husten, MD, MPH, tells the New York Times that some workplace wellness incentive programs that tie an employee's health insurance premiums to targets such as weight have raised concerns among some health and prevention advcocates.

“Actually, achieving a target is not necessarily within someone’s control,” says Husten, noting that genetic predisposition is a factor in many conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and the environment also plays a role. “If you live in a neighborhood with only convenience stores and fast-food, you don’t necessarily have access to the food that will help you to eat healthier,” she adds.

Provisions in health care legislation under consideration in Congress would allow employers and insurers to offer premium discounts of as much as 50 percent to employees in workplace wellness programs who meet specific health targets, such as keeping their weight, cholesterol and blood pressure within healthy ranges. Under current law, discounts for meeting these kinds of health targets can be no greater than 20 percent of the total premium. An amendment passed by the Senate Finance Committee would raise that cap to 30 percent and permit the secretaries of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury to increase the cap to 50 percent at their discretion. A similar provision appears in a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee bill.


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