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Employers Charging The Overweight More For Health Insurance

More employers are penalizing overweight workers on insurance rates and benefits. We look at what’s fair and what’s coming.

In this Tuesday, July 24, 2012, photo, tire inspector Buddy Rice checks for defects in the tire verification area at a Michelin manufacturing plant in Greenville, S.C. (AP)

In this Tuesday, July 24, 2012, photo, tire inspector Buddy Rice checks for defects in the tire verification area at a Michelin manufacturing plant in Greenville, S.C. (AP)

Guests

Leslie Kwoh, management reporter for the Wall Street Journal. (@lesliekwoh)

Helen Darling, president of the National Business Group on Health. (@hdarlingnbgh)

Uwe Reinhardt, professor of political economy and professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

Listeners On The Debate

By Stefano Kotsonis

We looked at the growing trend of employers penalizing overweight employees.  To a radio producer, it’s a deliciously complicated debate.  To a citizen, devilishly complicated is more like it.   You can just imagine many a listener saying one moment, ‘We MUST do something about this obesity epidemic!’ and in the next be aghast at the idea that companies would take measures to do something about it.

Here’s the story:

First comes word that Samoa Air will start charging its airline passengers by their weight to fly.  Then word that American employers are eyeing something similar for employees’ health insurance.  As health care and insurance costs rise, employers increasingly want to know your weight, your blood pressure, your glucose and cholesterol levels.  Six in ten, according to one survey, say they plan to impose penalties on employees who don’t take action to improve their health.  Does this sound fair?  Inevitable?  Wrong?  Is this the way to health?  To discrimination?

Listeners came down firmly in both camps.  Here’s listener/caller Ron from Sumter, SC:

“I’ve been waiting for this.  I’m a 53-year old nurse….Anyone who know me knows I run at work, I’ve been doing it all my life….High blood pressure is preventable.  We all absorb the cost of people who don’t stay fit.  I think it’s very selfish, especially in today’s climate with Medicare, all the changes.  If we had done this years ago, we would not have [this] dilemma in the health care industry.  The costs are so high now, it’s going to wipe out the system if we don’t do something.”

Caller Elizabeth says:

“It’s really important not to blame the victim…It’s a systemic, cultural problem.  If we want to save money, if insurance companies want to save money, why don’t they take some of the profits from Frito-Lay, from some of the advertising companies that literally shove this stuff, the sugars, the fats, down people’s throats?”

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  • WorriedfortheCountry

    Caption of the above photo:

    Find the spare tire.

    • sickofthechit

       It’s on the Michelin man himself.  Is he going to be updated?

  • arydberg

    It is the FDA with it’d approval of HFCS that made this country fat.    See:
    http://www.princeton.edu/main/news/archive/S26/91/22K07/

  • Gregg Smith

    This is just more fallout from Obamacare. Employers are up against the wall. 

    • Shag_Wevera

      Oh stop it.  This is capitalism to the extreme.  Labor is an employer’s greatest expense, and this is just a sad way to shave that loss.  You think if Romney were president, this wouldn’t be happening?  From reading your posts for so long I know that you may be deluded. but you are not stupid. 

      • Gregg Smith

        Most here think I’m deluded AND stupid so thanks, I guess. The employers’s expense has gotten bigger. Much bigger. Companies must adapt or drop coverage. That can mean tactics like this, switching to a part-time workforce, cutting back jobs or closing the doors. 

        • AlexisRT

          These wellness programs were beginning prior to the ACA and health costs have been spiraling for years (I should know, I see the premiums). The ACA only increased the potential discount for these wellness plans–they didn’t create them from nothing. 

  • Shag_Wevera

    I’ve said this before, so forgive me if you’ve already heard this from me;

    First it was smokers.  Easy target.  Now it is fatties.  Also an easy target.

    In the not too distant future, our individual genomes will be available.  Non-union, at-will employees will be required to provide this information to employers.  You will be upcharged for insurance for family history of cancer, diabetes, and a number of other maladies.  How about a spouse with difficult pregnancies?  Don’t think it can happen?  C’mon!

    • Shag_Wevera

      Bad eyesight?  Bad teeth?

      • hennorama

        What about behavioral and/or other factors that can impact health?

        Blood glucose level?  Elevated blood pressure?  High total cholesterol?

        Firearms ownership?  Alcohol purchases?   Medical marijuana card issuance?  Make and model of automobile?  Proximity to sources of pollution?

        • sickofthechit

           All valid actuarial factors!

          • hennorama

            sickofthechit – Indeed. Once begun, exactly how far will this practice go?

            Will the potential insured party need to answer hundreds of questions, and submit to multiple medical and genetic tests? Will these tests be administered annually, monthly, weekly, hourly, or minute-by-minute?

            What about the effects of the actual work being performed? i.e. – stress, environmental factors, ergonomic factors, etc.? Will the employer be held accountable for these, or will the employee unable to adapt be penalized?

      • J__o__h__n

        How many people with good eyesight pay for vision insurance?  None. 

    • John_in_Amherst

       It is not uncommon for people to already decline genetic tests, especially for conditions without a clear course of remediation.  Ditto foregoing treatment for mental illness or addiction.  Electronic medical records are not secure, and will inevitably be used by insurers (which mandate access to our records), and even the government and employers, to discriminate.  People with a fortunate genetic inheritance will make out with more opportunities and lower premiums, but everyone else (including many of the children of the genetically privileged, as genes get shuffled and mutated as they are passed on to the next generation, sometimes for the worse) will likely get screwed.
      This is all good to keep in mind as we propose to “map the brain”.  Biting that apple of knowledge will surely lead to more unintended and unforeseen consequences.
      The fine tuning our understanding of biological processes holds great promise and great perils.  Much as Oppenhiemer came to regret his work on atomic physics and the bomb, I am sure some geneticists and neurobiologists will rue the day…

  • 1Brett1

    What about those with gum disease? What about those who are of average weight but sedentary, without aerobic exercise in their lives? Maybe employers should demand demonstrative evidence that an employee is active in his/her personal life? What about those who have a family history of certain diseases? They must be more of an insurance risk than a person who has good genetic markers? 

    And what about the person who is in tip-top shape, eats properly, and gets plenty of proper exercise but is still overweight? There are those few out there.

    As far as the ACA, would the rates be rising if Obamacare had not been implemented? Yes. Would they be rising faster or not as fast without Obamacare? Probably at about the same rate.  

    • Gregg Smith

      There are also those who smoke, drink, eat twinkles, are fat and live to be 100. I’m with you on that.

      I disagree about insurance rates. They have gone up and the blame is put on Obamacare almost universally. How is it possible they wouldn’t with the new requirements government has imposed on the insurance industry? If the are going to cover kids until they’re 26 or accept pre-existing conditions and on and on cost must go up. There is no other way. You can say these are good things, fine. But they cost. Either way the promise was rates would go down.

    • Don_B1

      Jared Bernstein collected some data which shows that Health insurance premiums have generally been rising at a slower rate than in the past and offers some reasons that that could well continue.

      That does not mean that more legislation is not required; the problem is that the Republican approaches to reducing health costs are only to reduce the costs to GOVERNMENT, not to the individual, so a Republican approach will just restore the rapid rise in health costs, at least until people just cannot afford to pay and then they will decline but morbidity and mortality rates of middle and lower income workers and retired will increase. Some of that will mean that money saved on prevention will then be more than spent on intensive (should have been unnecessary) procedures.

      Certainly some people have great genes that allow them to violate some of the findings of eating habits that lead to poor health. But for the vast majority of humans, the bad habits that a few can get away with are likely to be catastrophic, particularly when they lead to debilitating chronic conditions that are really expensive.

      The Tea/Republicans just assume that “everyone knows” how to eat nutritiously but, unfortunately, that is not true. Cooking is not even taught in schools these days. And of course, without willingness to spend money to change the food culture and also educate homemakers on how to cook healthy food, the people in need of learning to eat nutritiously and get the needed exercise through enjoyable activities. Providing places where everyone can get physical activity in a safe environment will require a “greener” approach to everything from sidewalks to bikeways and playing fields; sort of a “Central Park” within a five or ten minute walk of where people live.

      • 1Brett1

        Thanks, Don; some great points. 

        I am fortunate to have a lot of knowledge about healthy living and take care of myself (even with lifelong Type-1 diabetes and lifelong asthma). 

        Many people don’t have good health knowledge; many people also live in areas where healthy choices are not so easy to accommodate. A can of corn, say, really isn’t all that much healthier than a bag of chips. Compound that by working several jobs and the problem increases. 

        As you mention, health is not really taught to children in formal ways (in some cases, maybe, but not beyond the pedestrian knowledge), and many communities are not configured to accommodate walking, the promotion of good grocery stores, and so on. 

      • Don_B1

        @1Brett1:disqus 

        The link to the Jarod Bernstein blog post is here:

        http://jaredbernsteinblog.com/are-health-costs-really-slowing-and-what-does-it-mean-if-they-are/

        For weight loss, check my addition to my earlier post (above, with oldest first listings).

  • madnomad554

    This is according to the CDC…in 1970 adults were consuming around 2100 calories per day. The daily caloric intake is now up to almost 2700 per day. That’s 4200 more calories per week than in 1970. Or 9 days worth of food in a 7 day period of time, at 1970 rates.

    If you consider that in 1970 house holds had an average of 3 TV channels, compared to 125 per house hold today and on top of that the internet, of which adults are consuming 13 hours per week of internet use and 28 hours per week in front of the TV, is it really any surprise what this country has done to itself regarding its health.  

    This is a self inflicted wound that no one was forced into. I’m sure someone will say they can’t afford to eat healthy, but I say you can’t afford not to. Give up the TV, give up the $300 cell phones, give up the 300 hp gas guzzling V8 SUV and buy or build a smaller house!!!

    You can come up with more than enough money to eat healthy if you truly want to.

    • Gregg Smith

      Eating healthy does not have to cost more money.

      • Ray in VT

        I disagree.  Many healthy foods have limited shelf lives, such as fresh fruits and vegetables.  If one is working on a very tight budget, then filling one’s belly with cheaper, less healthy, calories is the track that many take over having a half empty belly.  Some people also don’t have ready access to healthier foods, as stores have filled their aisles with less healthy foods, which move well and make money.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          “Food desert” is the term I use. It’s easy for me to shop healthy when I drive by six megamarts on the way to my job.

          The deck is stacked against people who can’t drive.

          • J__o__h__n

            It is more of a dessert problem than a desert one. 

        • Gregg Smith

          I said it doesn’t have to cost more money. It’s a matter of degree, so I don’t argue your point. It’s amazing to me how many fat poor people live on fast food. That is more expensive and unhealthier than going to the grocery store. And even if you don’t buy fresh fruits and vegetables a can of peas cost 79 cents about the same as a bag of cheap chips. It is very possible to go to the grocery store and make healthier choices that don’t cost more.

          I guess I’ll leave out the option of gardening, hunting and fishing because not everyone is so inclined.

          My wife is a coupon freak. Sometimes she gets stuff for free and sometimes the store actually pays her. Then there are the reduced bins with slightly older fruits, meats and vegetables which can be absolutely fine if eaten quickly.

          • Ray in VT

            That’s true.  Beans, or a can of corn or a bag of rice is relatively cheap, but I don’t think that there are really a large variety of foods that are both inexpensive and healthy.  One can live on such a limited diet, but who among us is going to live on beans and pb&j sandwiches every day when there are so many options out there?  People want variety, and the markets offer a lot of that, including much of that which is not good for you.  It does amaze me that there is pretty much a constant seasonal candy aisle.  I don’t remember that from when I was a kid.  Maybe that’s just the market responding to what the consumer wants.  And why does there have to be extra sugar and salt in everything?  It’s pretty ridiculous.

            There is also the issue of food deserts, as TF says below. A lot of areas have only smaller stores with more limited selections that charge much more than the larger supermarkets that many of us can easily access.

          • Gregg Smith

            It’s all about choices, if there are limiting factors there are still choices that are better than others.

          • Ray in VT

            That’s true, but the fewer resources that one has available, then the fewer choices that one has, as many better choices cost more.

          • Gregg Smith

            To follow my example, most places have canned peas and chips, the choice is there and the peas are cheaper than a bag of Doritos.

            It’s our ideological perspectives I suppose. I am hesitant to assume people are victims.

          • Ray in VT

            You also seem hesitant to accept that some people have limited resources and access to markets that offer a wide variety of goods.  Take the example of those who work multiple jobs.  If one is on the run, then a can of peas may not be a great option, and, again, depending upon factors that vary greatly from person to person, one may not have the ability to store something better that one could prepare at home, especially if it requires refrigeration.  I’m not assuming that anyone is a victim, I am merely recognizing that personal circumstances play greatly into the various choices that one has readily available.

          • Gregg Smith

            I’m just saying there are always healthier option   despite resources  that don’t have to cost more It’s all a choice including where you live ad work.

          • Ray in VT

            Except that all of those choices in part depend upon factors such as inherant abilities, upbringing, educational access and other factors that can hinder those choices.  I’m not saying that people cannot overcome obstacles, but some people start out further behind than others, and some people just get delt a lousy hand.  All of those choices that you listed are great and fine in an ideal world, but many people do not have all options equally available to them, and if one is barely scratching out a living at the best job that one can get, then just “choosing” to up and move or get another job may not really be a “choice” that one can make.  Not everything is a choice, and lots of people working hard and doing their best get screwed over and left behind.  I feel that your position assumes an equality of capabilities, opportunities and access, which is not reality for so many people.

          • J__o__h__n

            How much variety are most people who eat a lot of fast food and junk food craving?  Chips, fries, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, hotdogs, soda, etc aren’t a culinary adventure. 

          • Ray in VT

            That is also true, John.  I like most of those things every now and then, but I also like a good beef, potato and carrot stew or cornbread and gravy after 8-9 hours in my brother’s barn.  One can eat like a horse as long as one works it off, although sodium is one thing that I try to watch out for, given a family history of high blood pressure and heart problems (my dad had a heart attack at 39).

      • d clark

        Well  Gregg, it is because poor people are morally bankrupt, weak-willed, lazy and stupid that they don’t eat right. That is why they are as they are and deserve the outcomes. That sums  up your real views well enough, yes?

        • Gregg Smith

          Eating healthy does not have to cost more money, that’s all.

    • hennorama

      madnomad554 – one also needs to consider that employment is generally less physically demanding today when compared to 1970.

      However, employers could install workstations that can raise and lower, and that are combined with exercise equipment, so that employees could combine work and exercise.

      Of course, this would initially increase costs to the employer, making this much less likely.  Employers prefer to put costs onto their employees whenever possible.

  • J__o__h__n

    We should have national health care with tax breaks for people who maintain good health. 

    • madnomad554

       I completely agree. Many people have no problem dropping $300 on a new cell phone…EVERY 18 months when they come out with a new one, but they swear they can’t afford to eat healthy.

    • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

      We should have national health care, I agree. Tax breaks for the healthy sounds like a good idea, but is simplistic and opens a huge can of worms. How do we decide who is in good health? The truth is there are some overweight people who are in good health, and there are some skinny people who are not. Good health changes through life. There are people who eat a diet based on fruits and vegetables who develop cancer, and there are people who live on potato chips and cupcakes who never develop it. What will be the measures of good health, and, more importantly, who will do the measuring? Which government agency, which bureaucrat, will get to stamp some people at “fit” and some people as “unfit” for the purpose of taxation? Is this really where we want to go?

    • Al_Kidder

       Indeed. It’s claimed that men don’t visit doctors regularly for their preventive maintenance (who needs it? Just like running an old car without lots of electronics, you can do it yourself).
      Personally, the only time I see a doctor is when I’m with them at my local windsurfing beaches.
      If your health insurance premium was lower if you were found to be fit and healthy at your biannual check up, you would have a reason to drop in

    • StilllHere

      No way! No tax breaks for “thincats.” Equal treatment only.

      • J__o__h__n

        thincats was funny.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

    Diabetes is 60 percent more common in African-Americans than in whites; African-Americans are three times more likely to die of asthma; strokes kill 4 times more 35- to 54-year-old African-Americans than whites; African-Americans have nearly twice the first-time stroke risk of whites; nearly 42 percent of black men and 45 percent of black women age 20 and over have high blood pressure; black men have a 40 percent higher cancer death rate than white men, and black women have a 20 percent higher cancer death rate than white women. Whatever the reason, genes or environment, it looks as if hiring a black person would drive up an employers’ insurance costs. 
    If overweight people are to be penalized by employers because they are a health risk and therefore drive up insurance costs, then it looks like employers are going to also have to penalize African-Americans. This is discrimination masked as a health issue. It is also yet another example of the fact that American employers seem to think they are entitled to have a chokehold on every aspect of their employees’ lives, from their weights to their Facebook pages, to their very thoughts. Enough already. We may be your employees, but we are neither your slaves nor your serfs.

  • Michiganjf

    The ANSWER to the most pressing health care dilemmas in the U.S. is still a SINGLE PAYER SYSTEM!

    Get BOTH employers AND insurance companies OUT of health care!

    Hopefully, the Affordable Care Act is a stepping stone to Single Payer, as Republicans made pursuing single payer in  the first place an impossible goal.

    • Gregg Smith

      It certainly is a stepping stone. Obamacare is totally unworkable as is and will implode under it’s own weight. But you can’t blame Republicans, they didn’t vote for this anyway. He had the majorities and if Democrats supported single-payer then we would have it.

      • sickofthechit

         Gregg, apparently you may be suffering with a little early alzheimers or selective memory loss.  Obama avoided Universal HC because he believed (naively) that the Repugnicans (Republican politicians in name only) were able to read the obvious writing on the wall that our out of control health care costs would be the largest driver of our long-term deficits.  Sadly he was wrong in thinking that they would behave as adults and do the right thing. charles a. bowsher

        • Gregg Smith

          All Republicans in both chambers voted against Obamacare but we got it. What more could they have done?

    • nj_v2

      “…steppingstone…” Ha ha!

      ACA will provide huge windfalls to the insurance monster, guaranteeing any movement to single payer will be orders of magnitudes more difficult. Hugh profits gained from forcing people to buy crappy products over which there’s no effective cost control will buy armies of lobbyists to fight single payer far into the future.

      And Obammy appointed an insurance co. exec. to manage the implementation of the ACA behemoth.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      “Get BOTH employers AND insurance companies OUT of health care!”

      This I love, only one way to do it. Unfortunately I’m afraid I agree with nj’s reply concerning the ACA.
      I didn’t say I like it, just that I agree.

  • glorkohl

    Perhaps the first folks who should be charged to pay for ALL Americans health insurance premiums, regardless of their weight, are the government intelligentsia  ( ever cautiously anonymous) who gave us the infamous “Food Pyramid”  a decade or so ago.  Is this simply not  just about the right time to reap the destruction of “8-11 servings of carbohydrates” at the base of the pyramid?  Has anyone noticed that prior to the time that the pyramid was introduced the rate of juvenile/ adult onset diabetes was significantly lower than it is today and that no one lived in a food desert? Who in the hell ever needed 8-11 servings of anything but water?

     Gee willikers! Reckon our parents were just danged healthy ole fools eatin’ off the 4 food groups and staying away from the doctors office for those $10 office visits!! Where was big pharma then?

    Were the pharmaceutical companies really that much in need of increased business in terms of diabetes drugs and weight loss research and insulin and snake oil- oops did I say snake oil  If so, what they projected in 1990 and what has materialized by 2010 makes Wall Street projections appear weak!  The charge away- an extra dollar for every 8 ounces over the weight limit- just like the airlines!!   

  • Ray in VT

    My company has tried a number of things to try to promote healthy habits, including getting rid of a lot of the onsite junk food sales and offering programs on healthy food and eating habits, but many of us have office jobs, and most people will park as close to their offices as they can in order to not have to walk far.  We’ve tried the carrot approach, but I don’t know how well it has worked.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.koenigsberg Andy Koenigsberg

    Some employers require a credit check and CORI prior to employment or an agreement to stop smoking. Soon, they will require you to submit a genome analysis, at the rate we are going.

    In an age where it’s a buyer’s market for labor in most industries, employers will do anything to cut costs, including healthcare. People have to put up with it in this environment because the alternative is joblessness.

    It is supposed to be against the law to discriminate based on color, creed, age or sex but proving any of these is expensive and difficult. Employers can get around even these laws by looking at health factors.

    It’s a brave new world folks and we all have to suck it up.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    So employers are entitled to ever increasing profit margins but bare no responsibility to educate, train, or pay their employees a livable wage. What else is new? Healthcare is a big (if not the biggest) piece of an actual living wage.

    And for the never-ending ACA bashers: If you think that the Affordable Care Act is what is destroying our society nothing anyone says is going to convince you otherwise.

    All of the rewards none of the responsibilities, play it again Sam.

  • Al_Kidder

    I’m Australian. We’ve had universal healthcare for about 40 years. We have this idea that no political party will challenge called “community rating” which means that no matter how badly you behave with respect to your own health, it is up to everybody else to pay.
    Now, I was born with fairly good genes, and I’ve taken on board the propaganda about fitness and diet. I understand that I’m blessed, to borrow a religious term. So I don’t mind paying more towards the health care costs of the community than I expect to ever receive.
    But being fat is your choice. I don’t accept the  claim that it’s all the fault of the food industry. I resent having to pay for pigs to have surgery to reduce their stomach size so they won’t be able to eat so much.
    If the insurance industry charges more for fat people’s health insurance, so what? Or are you going to whine that it’s unfair that young men get charged more for car insurance because they crash more often.

    • Shag_Wevera

      Should you be charged more if your grand dad had prostate cancer and your mom had diabetes?  It isn’t my fault that you have increased risks so I shouldn’t have to pay for them, right?

      • Al_Kidder

         If you are a man, and your grand daddy had prostate cancer, you might like to think about masturbating a lot, not for fun, but for your health. Remember that lots of ejaculations is claimed to be associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.
        Diabetes? Is that inherited? Adult onset diabetes commonly goes with being fat. Being fat carries risks of all sorts of conditions. Eat less and do a little exercise. I emphasise EAT LESS, because it takes an enormous amount of exercise to burn off fat.
        If the justified higher price of insurance means that you have money for 1 or 2 less hamburgers a week, so what? That’s all that I want

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Those who are in the most desperate need of care are the ones least able to obtain it. Why does this sound familiar?

    What do credit, insurance, employment, and healthcare have in common? Those who can afford to pay the least are required to pay the most.

    Universal Healthcare.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    A way to discrimination Tom, like you even had to ask.

    Genetic marker screening to come.
    “Your ancestry is your fault, how dare you be born!”

    We’re so civilized…

    • Annie Tye

      This is not ancestry.  If you can find me a picture of
      an obese grandparent living in the Great Depression I will give you
      $100.  And as for genetic marker screening, please refer to The Genetic
      Information Non Discrimination Act.

      • Annie Tye

        Btw- I am very liberal, I support universal healthcare, and am a molecular science Ph.D student, before I get attacked as a greedy, ignorant bastard.  The fact is this: people are HUGE. They NEED to lose weight, if not for themselves, then maybe for the poor person who gets stuck next to them on an airplane.

        • DrewInGeorgia

          There was no attack coming, I completely understand the point you were trying to make. I agree that a majority of our current obesity ‘epidemic’ is a result of lifestyle choices. My point is that this will not be an end to the selection criteria. Tobacco was the beginning, do you honestly think that businesses will cease discriminatory efforts that benefit their bottom line?

          Capitalism says not.

  • Jim

    I’m quite morally liberal… but then.. i believe employees are at will. so i believe corporations have the right to charge higher on employees. Eventually overweight employees will cost taxpayers more money to pay higher medical costs.

  • Emily311

    How revolting. It is not simple to lose weight. People also have other health problems not related to weight. As a person with epilepsy, could I be charged more based on how many seizures I have?

    • Al_Kidder

       Epilepsy is not a good analogy for obesity. Losing weight is just a matter of self control. I’d be a bit surprised if you aren’t expected to pay more for car insurance, which is for a behaviour (driving) which carries a risk to other people.

  • J__o__h__n

    CVS sells junk food and cigarettes. 

  • OnpointListener

    As a former clinical nutritionist who has lectured on obesity, I must say that, in many instances, obesity can be considered a “pre-existing” condition, particularly in those who are morbidly obese or become obese secondary to metabolic abnormalities or injuries that impair activity.

    In other words, for some, it is not a lifestyle “choice”. 

    Please discuss how the ACA’s prohibition of denial for pre-existing conditions fits in here.

    • hennorama

      OnpointListener – what about epigenetic differences associated with periods of severe prenatal hunger for a mother, especially severe prenatal hunger that occurs around the time of conception?  These epigenetic differences in the child (and that persist into adulthood) could be considered the ultimate “pre-existing condition” could they not?

  • Yar

    I like the idea of flying by weight.  I want to be on an airplane with people who fit their seat. The airlines should also include weight of luggage as well.  Step on the scale with everything, and get your ticket.  Don’t want to be weighed then pay the maximum fare.

    • jfenbauer

      people who don’t ‘fit’ in the chairs already have to buy two seats, pay extra for seatbelt extensions and a variety of other ‘extra’ services that are actually absorbed by the averaging of all sizes of people. so it turns out what the airlines are doing is really just penalizing people they find unattractive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

    If CVS is so interested in good health, why doesn’t it stop selling junk food, chips, candy, etc.? Please ask this question, Tom!

    • DrewInGeorgia

      Don’t forget the tobacco products. A relative tells me it’s usually cheaper to purchase them at a pharmacy than it is to buy them from a gas station. For some reason this doesn’t surprise me at all…

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Everything is cheaper elsewhere than at a gas station, isn’t it? I mean, I’m a Northeasterner, and it seems that way up here.

        • DrewInGeorgia

          Probably, Convenience Store says it all.
          That wasn’t what I was hinting at though.

          Often the most profitable thing for a business with a ‘cure’ or ‘treatment’ to do is to encourage the cause of the ailment they’re ‘treating’.

          Cannibalism at its finest.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            It used to be “Give away the disease and sell the cure”. We can change that to “sell the treatment”.

          • DrewInGeorgia

            Now it seems to be “Sell the disease and profit from the treatment”.
            Cures are not profitable.

            :’(

          • Ray in VT

            It’s more profitable to treat the Black Shakes than it is to cure it, right?

    • carl_christian

      One might also ask them why they don’t discourage people from taking so many drugs — both prescription and non-prescription; from comparison studies with health care in other countries, it is quite clear that Americans are probably less healthy because of our national drug addiction. Aspirin and placebos are still as effective as many pharmaceuticals — just not nearly as profitable.

  • daveincatskills

    So, what is the employer doing to establish a healthy work environment?  Are they providing any fitness facilities, or better yet a predictable work schedule that allows employees the time to work out?  What about a living wage that allows for gym memberships?  Will they idenitfy stressors in the workplace like incompetent management or leadership that adds to employee stress?  It seems that employers want it all.  If the could get away with slavery they would give it a go….  

  • RolloMartins

    If they wanted to reduce their medical expenses then what about advocating for Medicare-For-All, reducing business health expenditures to…zero!

    • Al_Kidder

       That’s what we do in the civilised world. Just part of income tax.

  • jfenbauer

    taller people use more services, eat more food and are just harder on the environment. let’s penalize them.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Think of how much money could be saved on office buildings if all the workers were 5’6″ and under. All those floors could be a foot shorter!

      (I don’t know if I’m kidding anymore.)

    • J__o__h__n

      Tall people are already penalized.  All the door handles, sales counters, ATM keys and money slots, are all really low to the ground now.  I’m only 6′ so I imagine it is much worse for the really tall. 

      • jfenbauer

        tall people penalized. yer funny!! :) love it.

  • sharlyne1

    I agree that our nation has an obesity problem, however, Corporate America has to realize they’re part of the problem. Sedentary desk jobs for 8 hours a day is a huge issue. We were not meant to sit all day. Americans need to be more mobile and eat better this is true, but sitting at work all day counteracts any efforts applied before and after work. Corporate America must redefine what “working hours” are in this modern day and age. The old 9-5, M-F is an antiquated work model for Americans to realistically meet and maintain sustainable healthy goals and lifestyles. Get moving Corporate America!

  • RolloMartins

    Good luck with your job interview if you are overweight or have a FaceBook message concerning diabetes, or cholesterol sites, or whatever. Are conservatives just against gov’t healthcare or are they against corporate shenanigans, too?

    • J__o__h__n

      No, that comes under freedom of contract, right to work, liberty from health care, etc. 

  • Adam Dupont

    If I get into an automobile accident that’s my fault, then my car insurance rates go up.  But if I stay healthy and take care of my body, my insurance rates go up because somebody else refuses to pay attention to their health — that doesn’t seem fair.

    That said, I would be against employers and the health insurance industry using factors like BMI to determine if someone is unhealthy.  But if a doctor observes that they lead a lifestyle where they do things to excess that they shouldn’t — drinking, overeating, smoking, etc. — then yes, their insurance rates should go up.  At least before mine go up because of their actions. 

    • ToyYoda

      What about people who ski and ride motor bikes?  These are lifestyle choices too that lead to more accidents and should I have to pay an extra premium because I don’t live on the ‘wild side’?

      • Adam Dupont

        If you willingly risk your life? Sure, why not.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jamesbrian.canary James Brian Canary

      Your reasoning suggests that we should monitor your driving habits and make you pay more, because your not the ideal driver or do things that increase your risk of an accident. The problem is Health Insurance is no longer “insurance” like it is supposed to be. It is now a Health Payment Plan.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1615456 Arthur Oberheim

    Last year, Lahey Hospital offered all employees a discount on our healthcare, if we voluntarily had our BP, BMI, cholesterol and blood glucose checked. There was nothing punitive, however.  This year, we have been offered a discount, only if we improve on our scores from last year, or fall within normal limits at baseline.  Not a bad idea for healthcare providers to set a good example…  However, as our insurance companies and our providers grow ever closer, where Lahey colleagues get their care at Lahey, many of us are uncomfortable with the underlying questions about our privacy.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/emily.h.lacroix Emily Harvey Lacroix

    So glad I work for IBM, which put genetics into it’s nondiscrimination policy in 2005. I’m grateful that I can acknowledge my genetic disorder. But I fear ever being able to work elsewhere.

  • TrueAdventure

    ‘Weight’ is only one attribute of many statistics reflecting the physical health of an individual. There are people who are overweight per a chart but healthier then their skinny work colleagues. More factors need to be considered otherwise this is mobbing from the top down in the work place. Weight is not the only indication of health. There are exceptions and this system is not taking that into account.

  • RolloMartins

    Not all blood pressure is preventable. The caller is the one who is being selfish. Not all high cholesterol is preventable, also. 

    • Annie Tye

       Most issues related to high BP and cholesterol ARE preventable.  I imagine that anyone with a medically documented BP/cholesterol issue have ground to stand on with respect to Michelin’s policy.  Obesity is a huge problem (no pun intended).

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000570151428 Jo Bleaux

      Very true. I worked for years with a tall skinny guy who was plagued with high blood pressure and very high cholesterol. Despite being a regular jogger. I’m short and fat and have low cholesterol, low blood pressure and low blood sugar and a good fitness level.

      Another co-worker was labelled as borderline obese by the BMI. He’s 6 feet tall, has a 34-inch waist runs about 4 times a week and goes to  boot-camp 3 times a week. He’s very fit.

      The point I’m making is a lot of the markers proposed for these programs are arbitrary.

  • J__o__h__n

    Employers should give employees time to exercise and not just dump the responsibility on the employees.  It saves them money. 

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Except when the people are treated as disposable napkins.

      For example, forget everything we’ve learned about healthy computer using since a Kaypro was a hip thing to own: If you’re not at your desk until you get bloodshot eyes and carpal tunnel every day you’re not a “team player”. It will be in your next review.

  • brachari

    Please remember that some people can be “fit and fat.” I am a therapist who specializes in obesity and compulsive eating.  I have many clients who overeat and don’t exercise but others who don’t eat more than I do and are in much better shape than I am but look fat.  By the way, I have a 34 inch waist even though I wear a size 8-10.  So you can’t tell everything by the numbers.
    Barbara

    • J__o__h__n

      Some doesn’t mean most. 

    • Ray in VT

      Some people really are just big boned.  Two of my brothers in law just have bigger frames than I do.  Even if they were in the same shape that I am, I think that their waists would be several inches larger.  They’re just wide-bodied guys.

  • Annie Tye

    Good for Michelin.  They made an effort to get employees to voluntarily participate in a healthcare program, and when that didn’t work they offered a way for morbidly obese people to get coaching and retain some of the healthcare costs.  I’m rarely in support of the corporation, but in this case I throw my hat in with Michelin.

  • Eric Hansson

    The working life in corporate America encourages obesity: high-stress desk jobs that leave little time for exercise and the “working lunch” give people little opportunity to lose weight or even maintain a healthy weight.

  • Echo Buster

    Reckless drivers and reckless eaters both deserve to pay extra.

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      The beauty of this is that the free market makes sure that some areas have huge obstacles to eating well.  Food deserts exist.  If you don’t have a good supermarket in your area and you work 40 or more hours, you take what you can get.  And it usually sucks.

    • J__o__h__n

      That isn’t fair.  Reckless drivers might be poor and need to rush to a second job, or might have ADD, or might not have had a good drivers ed teacher, or can’t afford a chauffeur. 

  • J__o__h__n

    Michelin is against spare tires.

  • J__o__h__n

    The Michelin Man must be paying a higher rate. 

  • CarlontheCape

    Employers have always insisted on a pre – employment physical as part of the hiring process – I have no problem with blood pressure and weight monitoring as part of on going wellness programs.  I do not like the idea of the CVS ” second opinion ” carrot and stick approach to divert more expensive medical procedures.

  • Sarah Eiseman

    My concern is what’s next? It’ll start with obesity and high-blood pressure related health issues, but what happens when this expands to things like cancer? I think this is a really slippery slope. I don’t dispute that healthcare costs are high and that we should encourage employees to take care of themselves. I think this is the wrong way to go about this process. 

    • brettearle

      Wait until your grocery receipts are recorded by a private subscription service that insurance companies sign up for, in contractual agreement with supermarkets.

  • Gypsi Ballard

    What about the responsibility of the employer?  Are these employers allowing standing workstations and comfortable shoes in the office?  Do the break rooms have adequate facilities for healthy food prep for lunch?  Are employees getting enough time to eat healthy during lunch?  Can the company be accessed safely by those who want to bicycle or walk to work?  A healthy lifestyle is not so easy when you spend 9 hours plus in an unhealthy office sitting at a desk!

  • RolloMartins

    That caller was a nurse??? A nurse should know better. Is diabetes type I correlated to lifestyle? No. If people are injured, they cannot exercise. That nurse should be fired for ignorance.

  • Casey Reyner

    We need to remove employers from involvement in our health care and health coverage.

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      Well, if a certain group had let us enact nationalized healthcare employers wouldn’t be on the hook.  

      • J__o__h__n

        Other than the health care cabal, I don’t see why businesses didn’t push for national health care.  It wouldn’t be politically possible for taxes to go up at the same rate as medical expenses.  They would save money. 

    • creaker

      One big part of their involvement is negotiating lower rates for their employees – or self-insuring and using the benefits for that to pass on lower costs.

      Individual insurance in usually way more expensive – and the individual’s health and habits are under much higher scrutiny.

  • Ray in VT

    Such practices do raise an issue regarding those who have some sort of issue regarding maintaining a healthy body weight, despite good eating habits and exercise.  My wife has PCOS, and she has found it to be extremely difficult to drop her extra pounds despite her best efforts, and it is my understanding that many women with PCOS experience such problems.

  • adks12020

    If employers are going to do this they should find accurate measures.  BMI is notoriously inaccurate as measure of overall health. It doesn’t take into account muscle mass, diet, etc. I’m 5’10″ and weigh almost 170 lbs.  According to a BMI calculator I’m nearing the high end of “normal”.  If I gain 4 more pounds I will move into the “overweight” category which is absolutely ridiculous. I have a six pack, toned arms, legs and chest. I ride a bike almost 100 miles a week; I hike; I ski; I lift weights. I probably will gain 4 or 5 more pounds since I’ve been hitting the weights more and muscle is heavier than fat…I will certainly not be overweight. Would I be penalized for a change in my BMI?

  • RolloMartins

    “It’s for *their* lives.” Right, Helen. Not about the corporate bottom line. How about the corporations get out of the healthcare business all together? 

    • Shag_Wevera

      Where is the “love” button?

  • David_from_Lowell

    While I agree there are serious privacy problems, it seems many of the tea-party types are older, heavier, more rural, and want government out of their lives. My mother is a cardiac nurse in Maine, and says most of the heart attack patients are overweight heavy drinkers with libertarian politics, but then suck dry the public health budgets with the consequences of their lifestyle choices. Next time the news airs a gun rally march on TV, see how many marchers are overweight, and ask yourself if you and your family want to pay for their choices.

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      I used to have a 4 chicken flock.  The only guy who ever complained to the City was a neighbor well known for his libertarian/Republic of Texas leanings.

      Tea Party folks seem to be the first to go crying to Authority when they don’t like something. 

  • Annie Tye

    For those who are concerned about genetic screening, please see The Genetic Information Non Discrimination Act.  It is illegal for employers to use genetic markers to refuse to hire or to fire people.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joseph-Rice/100000693874282 Joseph Rice

      We also have laws against race, age and sex discrimination in employment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andi.cope Andi Sparklepeenk Cope

    I am 5’3″ and 200 lbs.  I just had a physical last month and my blood pressure, cholesterol/triglycerides, A1C, etc. were all well within normal limits. My weight doesn’t cause me to have back pain or joint problems.  I follow a vegetarian diet and last weekend I racewalked my 3rd half-marathon of the year.  It is possible to be fat and fit.  I would be enraged if my employer added a “fat tax” to my insurance benefits based only on my BMI or waist measurement without taking other factors into consideration.

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      Copy that, Andi.  My father is considered well overweight, but he also holds several black-belt dan levels in at least three martial arts.  He teaches martial arts.  He could probably kill or disable every one of these commentators and not break a sweat.  But he could be penalized by some pasty cube-sitter?  He’s nearly 70 and in better health than many folks I have met in the tech industry.

    • nj_v2

      Winner, Best-Middle-Name-of-the-Week Award.

  • ericd725

    of course it doesn’t “sound” fair, (when you’re) a fat slob like me, but for a large community, like the US, to function as a society, it must take care of its members.  (sounds like making drugs illegal)  I’m sure the rich don’t want universal health care, but its what a lot of other countries are doing. (yes I know its hard to soar like an eagle, when you’re surrounded by a bunch of Turkeys!,  but its not impossible.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

    Wall Street Journal readers support policies that infringe upon the rights and privacy of workers? Now there’s a big surprise! Does this woman have no shame at all?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000570151428 Jo Bleaux

    “This is not to penalize them.” I call BS on this.

    I’ve been fat all my life. I’ve been exercising regularly for at least 25 years now. My blood pressure is low, my blood sugar is low, my cholesterol level is low, my heart is good my lungs are clear. Yet, I’m fat. 

    • sharlyne1

      I’m in the same boat and I feel your pain! They have a fat cure it’s just more profitable to keep people fat and charge them for it. Stay strong.

  • Howard Zelaznik

    I am a Health and Kinesiology Professor at Purdue University.  The problem with all of these well intentioned people is that the “obesity and exercise problem” is structured to make the “bad” people degraded.  We need to rethink the value of movement and activity such that people move and lower their intake to enjoy activities.  We have bought into the medical model and have thus considered eating and activity as medicine.  Why not spend more effort on restructuring work and our environments such that people naturally start to move.  Moving should be fun, not a prescription. 

    H.N. Zelaznik

  • creaker

    It’s like charging men under 25 more on their car insurance – it has nothing to do with their own driving record, it just has to do with the demographic they are in.

  • SpencerInSomerville

    This is another attempt to distract the public and skew the conversation away from WHY costs are so high in the first place. Until we confront the health-care-industrial complex, which spends almost three times what the military-industrial complex spends in lobbying, we won’t get meaningful change to the system that is stacked against us. Before we intrude on workers’ privacy, we should hold accountable the hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and medical device manufacturers who are raking in truly obese profits on an artificial and unfair price mechanism.

  • Emily311

    It’s super “easy” to be healthy?! How easy People do not work so that they can get help and advice on how to live. Should we investigate whether people are having safe sex? What about driving safely? Medical problems cause 50% of bankruptcies. Ms. Darling needs to think about this, before charging people even more money.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    Tom, did you just chuckle along with Groh’s findings on a “poll of WSJ readers”?

    Do you know how small and specialized a segment of the population this is?

    How hard did this program try to find a “labor reporter” for this hour?

  • ThirdWayForward

    BOYCOTT CVS. This is a heavy infringement on personal freedom that has nothing to do with job performance. 

    It is far from easy to stop smoking or lose weight — many health conditions are not under the control of the person.Discrimination on the basis of apparent health is just an excuse for turning the screws on workers. It is not about helping people — if that were so, it would be in everyone’s interest to subsize health promotion programs. As far as we know, health insurance does not cover weight loss or smoking cessation programs.It easily becomes a rationale for discriminating against older workers.Even though we have laws that forbid discrimination on the basis of age, age-discrimination is rampant and widely tolerated by our judicial system.This is the primary reason why employer-sponsored health insurance doesn’t work as a system — not to mention that this benefit is fast disappearing from many jobs.We should just extend Medicare to cover everyone, and let the subscription rate for those under 65 float such that the costs of the program are covered.

    • kokkonobi

      Haven’t you listened to the show.  The carrot approach doesn’t work.

      • J__o__h__n

        Carrots taste awful and aren’t a good incentive.

        • nj_v2

          You haven’t been eating the right carrots.

          • J__o__h__n

            I’ve stopped picking them out of things.  That’s progress.

        • StilllHere

          You’re not putting enough melted cheese on them.

        • sickofthechit

           You just need to saute them in salted butter is all, they are delicious that way!

  • http://www.facebook.com/colin.pape.5 Colin Pape

    I am generally in support, but how are these metrics chosen??  For instance Cholesterol targets have been going down over the last 20 years, due to studies, funded by whom??  I might suggest the pharma industry has been funding many of these studies.  What of the populace that is other wise healthy, has genetically high cholesterol and doesn’t want to be on statens for the rest of their lives?

  • Shag_Wevera

    Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…

    What if I enjoy gluttony with food, and don’t mind being overweight?  I know that my pursuit of happiness shouldn’t harm others, but being fat isn’t the same as shouting fire in a crowded theatre or busting a cap off in someone’s behind.

    • J__o__h__n

      You have the right to be a glutton but not the right to have others subsidize it (unless you are a corporation).

      • Shag_Wevera

        You can’t really prove subsidization.  Even one healthy fatso disproves it.

    • Annie Tye

      Being fat and spilling over into my seat in a crowded theater harms me.  I payed full price for my seat and I want it all.

      • Shag_Wevera

        Inconvenience isn’t the same as harm.  Should my body odor be illegal as well?

        • J__o__h__n

          It should be a reason to deny admission to the workplace, airplanes, theaters, libraries . . .

      • Shag_Wevera

        I guess we have different definitions of harm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BGHooke Bruce Hooke

    It seems to me there should be more push-back on the employer regarding the working environment they are creating. It should start with the employer doing things that reduce stress level and increase health in the working environment. Once the employer has stepped up to the plate then they will be in a better position to ask they employees to do more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leonard.bast.90 Leonard Bast

    Well, at least the professor is honest: it’s not about what’s fair, it’s about what’s efficient for the market. That could be the new motto of the United States. 

    • Annie Tye

       The motto for privatization, anyway…

    • Roberto1194

      It’s not even about what is “healthy” for our society.
      It would be healthiest to provide good reasonable cost care to all regardless of employment, age, etc.
      This is a basic provision for the well-being of all citizens.

  • SpencerInSomerville

    This is another attempt to distract the public and skew the conversation away from WHY costs are so high in the first place.
    Until we confront the health-care-industrial complex, which spends
    almost three times what the military-industrial complex spends in
    lobbying, we won’t get meaningful change to the system that is stacked
    against us. Before we intrude on workers’ privacy, we should hold
    accountable the hospitals, pharmaceuticals, and medical device manufacturers who are raking in truly obese profits on an artificial and unfair price mechanism. 

  • cmancee

    I am a responsible member of society that goes to work every day and my life is invaded in the name of improved lifestyle and reduced healthcare costs for my employer? What expectations are required of those who don’t work and cost the taxpayers money for increased healthcare costs? When someone receives free or subsidized healthcare are they asked intrusive, personal questions to qualify for that care?

  • Roberto1194

    We pay the most and get the least benefits and the worst outcomes of all ‘advanced’ countries. 
    NONE of the others have chosen to care for their citizens in the way we have!  They laugh at our inefficient, stressful, and stupid system!All of this is the result of our being held hostage to the private, for-profit corporate healthcare model. It’s so inefficient to pay for all of the levels of Federal, State, and private “health management”… The real “FAT” in the health care system is all of the money spent that provides NOTHING for the care of people!!!!

    • corrinna

      You are so right, and so much of this “fat” does worse
      than providing nothing – it makes us sicker from too much
      radiation, contrast dyes, unnecessary surgery, etc.
      And then there are all those medications, some of which cause us to gain weight, among other unhealthy problems.

  • Kate McGrail

    Those of us who are not as healthy as we “could” be and don’t take steps towards that (if able) should pay a higher premium than those of us who do take steps towards maintaining or achieving good health.  We ALL pay for those individuals who are burdening the health care system.  We have always paid more for life insurance if we don’t meet the standards they set for weight.  It would seem it makes perfect sense to pay more if you are a higher risk for health insurers.
      It is interesting, too, how the “penalty” that is being described appears to be more of a benefit that will no longer be afforded versus a penalty that will be applied

  • http://www.facebook.com/BGHooke Bruce Hooke

    In light of the comments about the issues with BMI, I wonder how long it will be before there are lawsuits challenging employers on using such a bad measurement as the basis for financial decisions.

  • brettearle

    Eventually, people who are more angry and who feel more guilty will be charged higher premiums, as well…..when it is proven, more and more, that such negative emotions are detrimental to one’s health.

  • brettearle

    Why isn’t this a legal matter that the ACLU ought to consider handling?

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamesbrian.canary James Brian Canary

    No fines, No health care bill required. Let “Health Insurance” be the way Health Insurance originated and not be a ‘healthcare plan’.  We must use High Deductable Insurance for all.  Costs will go down once the ‘healthcare machine’ adjusts to new economics. Insurance and Healthcare Services have been feeding on each other for to long.

  • AC

    i would just like to point out that i said on a show last week that sick people will be persecuted……

    • brettearle

      They are, already.

    • 1Brett1

      I’m sure you win something…I think.

  • http://www.facebook.com/cecebar Cindy C Barnard

    This idea for one is ludicrous – health isn’t just about weight.

    But if employers are allowed to consider health as a major qualifier for a job, when will we have good education for one’s health, taught along side engineering, political science, history, physics, and even medical professions!?

    Lastly, if we grew fruits and vegetables so they tasted as they should, or if eating local went beyond your upscale neighborhood market, more people w/could eat healthier.

    We can’t even get a restriction on the amount high-sugar soda you can buy in one purchase; and it’s one of the worst food products for you — along with its diet counterpart.

  • JanaHod

    Isn’t this a compelling argument for universal healthcare?
    The fear of the so-called “nanny state” horrors that are imagined under the single-payer scenario is the already the current reality in the private sector.
    There is no true incentive to keep people healthy at work here but the healthcare insurance industry’s bottom line. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/JPspaceprty Henry Stanley

    No way, Tom. No. Way. The slippery slope argument concerns me. When it comes to health, there are too many variables. If we penalize obesity, then we should also penalize dangerous hobbies, contact sports, people who spend too much time in the sun.

    This isn’t about economics. This is about prejudice.

    • http://twitter.com/TimMCahill Tim Cahill

      Exactly!  Why don’t we also penalize those who own guns in their homes (more accidents = more medical care); have snowmobiles and ATVs; people who go skiing, skydiving, and play contact sports; people who own aggressive dogs or even people who chose to have children.  All those examples end up costing our healthcare system more and why should I, a single, sedate individual have to pay higher premiums to cover those instances?  Because that’s how insurance works – everyone pays in to help spread the cost among all insured.  We’re simply engaging in targeted predjudice when we begin to target certain groups for higher premiums. 

    • sickofthechit

       It’s called Actuarial Science.

  • creaker

    It will be a moot point in a few years, I think. Unless employers figure out how to make money offering health insurance as a benefit, they are probably going to drop it. And we can go as individuals to beg for affordable policies from insurance companies who won’t want to sell policies to anyone who might actually need to use them.

  • Sarah Dwyer

    It seems like smokers and obese people are easy to blame and use as a test bed to charge people more. In a couple of years then why not charge people more based on genetic conditions or diseases, they could be costing insurance more as well. It seems like this is a very slippery slope, it’s seems like insurance/employers needs to be more focused on having really good programs for people to get healthy and then offer them some kind of incentive to do it.

  • daveincatskills

    Break down health care costs by activity and be transparent.  Stop talking in generalities when you want to be so invasive into peoples lives. It is well known that executives have a more expensive health care plan than the workers, which is often part of the golden parachute. Costs are a canard for Big Government and Big Business to get more control over individuals.  Orwell would be proud.   

  • ThirdWayForward

    We agree with Uwe — it IS certainly a “private market phenomenon” and “private markets are not about fairness.”

    Private markets are not about efficiency per se; they are about profit maximization. Businesses don’t offer health insurance because they care about their workers — they do it because if they don’t they can’t attract better workers.

    ————–

    Weight is not perfectly correlated with health — this is one fallacy that is being propagated here.

    ————–

    Re: the pronouncements of the National Business Group president:

    There is already widespread informal discrimination already against obese people; there is widespread discrimination against the disabled; there is widespread discrimination against those who have been unemployed. 

    It amazes me that we allow discrimination against those who have been unemployed. That says a great deal about our society.

    Business loves arbitrary reasons to discriminate — it puts everyone on edge and fearful of not getting a job.

    —————

    Go out and rent the movie GATTACA — this is where all this evil ends up.

  • Alex Sloan

    No doubt there are caveats and complications, but the net benefits will outweigh them. We end up with healthier people, and saving healthcare costs. It doesn’t seem any different than getting a car insurance discount for not having wrecks over time, or having your insurance go up when you do. It’s a smart approach.

  • rojas13

    The USAF requires that health requirements to continue with a career in the Air Force.  You can be let go if unable to meet the requirements, including waist size, physical activity, etc.  That is a negative to some, but the USAF also pays for employees to exercise for 3 hours a week during the workday.  This is a positive for all.  It requires a positive and negative impact to change habits.  The US military is doing just that.  My family is better for it.

    • d clark

      The military is in a different category than an “employer”. Once you sign up they “own” you and can dictate what ever requirements they wish. I don’t think we lowly, slovenly ‘civilians’ are ready to put up with that.

  • Sarah Dwyer

    Also work environments are likely a major factor in some people being overweight, sitting all day isn’t good for anyone no matter if they’re obese or not.

  • gedanken11

    Since weight is under genetic control for the most part, this is a form of genetic discrimination which may be a violation of the genetic non-discrimination act.

  • Stephen706

    If the employer is paying for the employee’s health insurance, then the employer has a say. Obesity and Chronic overweight along with unhealthy lifestyle DOES cost more money.

    Hypertension, sleep apnea, respiratory difficulties, arthritis and joint diseases, disc disease and back pain, cardiac disease, liver abnormalities, gallbladder disease, transient ischemic attacks, stroke, stents, coronary artery bypass grafting, hospitalization and recovery–all these and more are affected with chronic obesity and unhealthy lifestyle.

    Being “skinny” is not the answer either–being “healthy” is!!!

    • Sandy Townsend

      How do we know about ‘healthy lifestyle of an individual? What if the back issue was present before the obesity? or the heart disease or any other abnormalities. We do not need to give corprations any more power. Not to worry, they will just take it as always.

      • Stephen706

        All the more reason to get healthy. Seriously. How about employers stop giving away insurance and let the individual foot the bill?

        • Sandy Townsend

          I did not realize that employers are “giving away insurance” All along I thought it was part of compensation. Gee, I think I am becoming an apostle of “individual responsibility”.

          • Stephen706

            Would you want to pay Lindsay Lohan’s car insurance bill? Why not? Because she is high risk.
            Yes insurance is part of compensation but the more unhealthy people are, the more utilization of the health system. Why lose weight when one can take an expensive pill to control blood pressure or more like a couple to 3 to 4 in combination. And why lose weight and exercise to control that diabetes or pre diabetes risk–a few more pills and/or a few combinations of insulins. That’s okay–”it’s free” for my wallet!!! And oh those pesky bouts of substernal chest pain that land me in the ER–no worries, the ER bill with portable chest X-ray, cardiac labs, EKG, telemetry, and admission for rule-out, no problem ’cause I got blue cross!!! Why should I stop smoking??? The docs can always go check how my stents are doing and need be add more or just crack my chest and do a multi vessel CABG!!! What’s another 50-150K– I am covered!!! I see and have to try to fix or stop the damage every day.

  • AC

    what about lupus? you could do a million diets and exercise’s and nothing changes….what then?

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      I think you die poor and broken.  That’s capitalism, right? you should have chosen better and not gotten it.

  • JanaHod

    Could the guest please give us a run down of a day in her life and what she personally does to mitigate her own health risks?

  • Stephen706

    And forgot to add all the medications–prescription and over-the-counter and supplements cost and radiology and lab analysis… it is mind boggling

  • http://www.facebook.com/liam.mcdonnell.5 Liam McDonnell

    Many worker are doing the job of two people now the employer wants to jump on to the thread mill of work to exercise.  They do not care about the worker they just care about profit. Why are people not asking why the US cost per capita $9000[still have 45,000,000 people uninsured)—is almost double of any other first world country and why 20% of this is not even spent on health.  If we keep people healthy they live longer and I belive actually increase the cost of health care.  Health care in the the US is the biggest rip off in the world.  It is profit driven not health driven.  Read Times magazine article of March 4, 2013

  • http://lowenfoundation.org/index.html Flowen

    Much poor health is due to over-stress.

    The solution your guests have is to increase their stress????

    Get real health experts on, not corporate pushers.

    If the US was serious about increasing the populations physical and economic health, health insurance companies need to insure individuals directly, not through employers.

    Also, let’s stop subsidizing unhealthy products and lifestyles!

  • Don_B1

    There is little question that this country has an obeisity problem, and research has yet to really address how the individual, who may have become obese in childhood when it was more the parent’s responsibility that the condition occurred. And once the body has adjusted to extra weight, research seems to have shown that losing that weight permanently is a herculean task. [Some movie stars have famously done it, but it was a short-term overweight; e.g., Robert De Niro and Renée Zellweger.]

    The most recent approach to gain some research, though mostly devoted to just using food to get real healthy, not only to avoid obesity, is the PBS special:

    http://www.pbs.org/program/michael-mosley/

    On the side of just the contribution of sugar to obesity, which Dr. Robert Lustig of UCSF considers the major problem, see:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

    This is the full nerd, full chemistry version; there is a revised version a couple years later, about as long and thorough, but less chemical formulas, etc., which is here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z5X0i92OZQ

  • http://www.facebook.com/doanart Antony Galbraith

    What about the Employer’s role in contributing to poor health. Many employers encourage long hours, not taking lunch breaks,  contribute to job-related stress, poor ergonomics in workspace, etc.  Will the employers take responsibility for how these things  contribute to the employee’s health or just blame the employee?

    • John_in_Amherst

       In many European countries, it is considered anti-socail to work past 5, when “good citizens” go home to tend to their health & families.  Those dang nanny states, eh?

  • Jim

    the cheap food issue is not the focus of the argument.

    correct, if we really want to resolve the root of the issue… it is the food industry… but the food industry is NOT the main culprit. it is the FDA…

    FDA and the government allow a vicious cycle of drug companies creating medication for obesity and of the food industry pumping tons of sugar into the society.

    but our main issue: do corporations have the rights to charge employees? and the unfortunate answer is yes. employees are at will, unless you have a contract like professional ball players.

  • AC

    what does chris christy think of all this?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    Systemic issues: How many more calories per capita is this country growing than, say, 50 or 40 years ago?

    Even considering how much of that we feed to other food (thanks, CAFOs!), those calories gotta go somewhere.

  • http://twitter.com/the_nickens Zachary Nickens

    The United States is the last top tier nation that ties health care coverage to employment. If corporations are this concerned, perhaps they should begin agitating for a single payer healthcare system. In addition to that, perhaps its time to separate the actual cost of healthcare services from the overhead that doctors offices and hospitals take upon themselves to have the nicest office suites and the swankiest designs. The costs of actual services and the the cost insurance companies and providers attach to services are not the same. 

  • Stephen706

    BS… weight has some genetic, BUT is mostly lifestyle LEARNED behavior patterns

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      And when companies put up barriers to getting the right information to be healthy?  What do you think of that?

      • Stephen706

        It really is not that hard. Seriously. Do we really have to teach people to wipe their bottoms next?? Personal responsibility and accountability. Be accountable c

    • JGC

      Not so sure about that.  There are studies that show in utero exposure to high insulin levels predispose to a life of obesity and the health problems that go with that. 

      • Stephen706

        Predispose but not automatic. And why are there high levels in utero–because of mom. And who teaches us the most on our diets–our parents, especially mom. And why is mom with high insulin levels? Because she is often overweight on top of the metabolic defect setting her up to be overweight and so on. A vicious cycle. But you can control insulin levels to a degree.

  • kokkonobi

    I’m listening right now in amazement that obese people are victims of advertisers and stress.
    I don’t drink, smoke, drink soda.  I make a good effort at eating healthy.  I’m sick of the excuses that overweight people use.  Suddenly everyone has genes that make them fat.  Next time you are at the supermarket, take a look at the shopping carts of overweight people.  Full of frozen burritos, chips, soda.  Where are the fresh fruits and vegetables?
    When I was a kid, there was usually one fat kid and everyone else was skinny.  Now it seems to be reversed.

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      I actually agree with you up to a point.  I only drink a little, don’t smoke, and only drink a 16 oz. soda about once a month.  The problem is that however smart/concerned you and I are about our food choices, there is a whole demographic that is completely ignorant.  They read the wrapper on the frozen burrito that says “Organic” or “Low Fat” and they buy into it.  What kind of person really thinks its ok to prey on the gullible?  Conmen.  That’s who.  

    • TELew

       You’ve never met my family.

  • creaker

    Who is this person? Healthy food is more expensive – end of story.

    • AC

      lol

  • Stephen706

    BS–weight is MOSTLY LEARNED behavior patterns and lifestyle oriented. Yes, some genetics BUT not the problem

  • John_in_Amherst

    It is not uncommon for people to already decline genetic tests,
    especially for conditions without a clear course of remediation.  Ditto
    foregoing treatment for mental illness or addiction.  Electronic medical
    records are not secure, and will inevitably be used by insurers (which
    mandate access to our records), and even the government and employers,
    to discriminate.  People with a fortunate genetic inheritance will make
    out with more opportunities and lower premiums, but everyone else
    (including many of the children of the genetically privileged, as genes
    get shuffled and mutated as they are passed on to the next generation,
    sometimes for the worse) will likely get screwed.
    This is all good to
    keep in mind as we propose to “map the brain”.  Biting that apple of
    knowledge will surely lead to more unintended and unforeseen
    consequences.
    The fine tuning our understanding of biological
    processes holds great promise and great perils.  Much as Oppenhiemer
    came to regret his work on atomic physics and the bomb, I am sure some
    geneticists and neurobiologists will rue the day… 
    Archeological evidence shows Neanderthals cared for individuals who, by virtue of deformity or age, would have died.  This would no doubt have placed heavy demands on bands of people living as hunter-gatherers.  We can only hope that such compassion is still lurking in the human psyche, and that it will outweigh the instincts of eugenicists and the bean-counters and the public who will ultimately tally and bear the costs of care.  If not, humanity will be devolving before our very eyes…

    • brettearle

      Is it any wonder that the Plutocracy, of the future, will be made up of those who are “Genetically Pure by Molecular Engineering”  and will hold down 98% of all jobs–as soon as everything, in all business environments, everywhere, becomes totally dependent on advanced technology and Robotics? 

  • http://www.facebook.com/jamesbrian.canary James Brian Canary

    Just because “the other kids do it like that” doesn’t mean we should. I don’t understand why everyone wants US to be them. Just move over there and stop trying to micro-manage everyone US. BTW we all make enough to take care of the little things, if we manage or income properly. Might have to get rid of cable, Data plan on cell phone, “I don’t” etc. Must have prioritys. Can’t have everything. That’s “Personal Responsibilty”.

  • AC

    lately i feel like my future will be either picking the capitol or picking district 13….is there no middle choice? :(

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      Nerd.  And that’s a compliment.

  • kellyanne2009

    Two circumstances with which I would be concerned: 1) What about women who have experienced pregnancy? How long would they have to lose the weight? 2) Would this piggyback people who are born with expensive health problems such as epilepsy or depression who take medications that make them gain weight? 

  • IowaGerry

    Employer-based Healthcare insurance started as incentive to employees during wage controls of WWII. W/result of privatized (for profit) carriers and health reframed as a “market.” should we continue this approach?

    • carl_christian

      This whole notion of the “market” as a way to structure all of human life is the root cause of so many of our current societal problems. Not the least because in reality there is no such thing as an “invisible hand” guiding any market to the optimal solution for all of its participants — if we could only begin to admit this truth and separate myth-making from economic history, we might begin to solve some of our problems with an eye toward fairness and social justice rather than the extremes to which we are prey to…

  • ThirdWayForward

    BOYCOTT CVS. We’ve been CVS customers for decades, but this kind of stuff will cause us to boycott the chain as long as they persist. It’s really disappointing, because we like the store and the people who work in our local CVS.

    A more benign company would use carrots and voluntary programs rather than mandatory tests and penalties.

  • http://www.facebook.com/BGHooke Bruce Hooke

    Some who does not understand all the ways that good food is more expensive than unhealthy food simply hasn’t been paying attention in the grocery store!!!!! Over and over its been demonstrated that the cheapest calories are the unhealthy calories sold by fast food restaurants and grocery stores. Yes, a steak is expensive, but a McDonalds hamburger is way cheaper than the comparable number of calories from fresh vegetables.

  • creaker

    Employers originally offered healthcare in WWII as a perk to attract employees because wages were frozen.

    Given the chronic (un)employment situation now, any reason for employers to offer healthcare is quickly evaporating.

    • http://lowenfoundation.org/index.html Flowen

      Agreed Creaker

      Getting employers out of the healthcare business would be a giant positive step, but it does not suit the agenda of the largest corporations and the health insurance providers, and thereby the government.

      The fact that the quality of your healthcare [insurance] is dependent not just on the size of your bank account, but more on the size of your employer should alert intelligent people that employer-sponsored health insurance is not a workable arrangement….except for Billionaires, their companies, key employees, and the US government.

      People get the best government they deserve and the worst they will tolerate. We are very tolerant!

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.altvater Chuck Altvater

    Incentives are, by definition, a reward and not giving someone a reward they haven’t earned by meeting health goals is not punishing them. Everyone is free to live how they see fit, but it’s more affordable if you attempt to lead a more healthy lifestyle.

    Also, one does not need a gym membership to keep healthy. Simple stretching and calisthenics in your living room before you go to work each day and a walk when you get home will go a very long way to helping keep one healthy. As will making better food choices…even on a budget one can make healthier food choices. The Farmer’s Market here in Savannah, Georgia even allows people to use their EBT cards so those on food subsidy programs can buy fresh vegetables!

    As an EMT in the hometown of Paula Dean, I see first hand the causalities in the “battle of the bulge” in the form of diabetes, and renal failure patients, and with dialysis center going up almost as fast as fast food places, it is becoming more and more apparent that something has to be done to convince people to make wiser health and diet decisions.

    • TELew

       So, when I need to buy food, I should take a trip to Savannah to buy it?

  • glenn keefer-mcgee

    Holy Crap!  Did this guy just say companies have no responsibility for keeping their employees healthy, and employees would be compensated for high risk jobs?!?  Does he understand capitalism and the Industrial Revolution?  Really?

    • Ray in VT

      I think that he said that in theory people doing high risk or dangerous work would get better compensated, or something to that effect.  That is sometimes the case, but it certainly is not for many who do dangerous or hard, laborious work.

      • glenn keefer-mcgee

        I got that.  I don’t believe that folks doing high risk/dangerous work actually get enough compensation to deal with the costs incurred by that work.  Their wages just don’t cover the boat payments of every doctor they have to see every month.  

        • Ray in VT

          I know what you mean.  I grew up farming, and that work very often is dirty, dangerous and hard, and volatile prices can sometimes leave one getting far less for a product than it cost to produce.

          • glenn keefer-mcgee

            My mother’s people raise chicken’s for for Tyson.  They get shafted every chance the company can.  My biggest complaint is when a company  ropes you in and then starts to abuse you.  Right about the time they can penalize you for exiting the contract, that they had the right to modify after you signed.

          • Ray in VT

            Some people and companies will certainly stick it to you if they get the chance, so one must always be wary.  I find that one of the nice things about living in a fairly small town and state, and dealing the local businesses, is that I think that that local word of mouth becomes very powerful, and if someone is doing something shady, then that can get around really fast and hurt a business.  That’s not so easy to do with larger firms.

  • kellyanne2009

    Two circumstances with which I would be concerned: 1) What about women who have experienced pregnancy? How long would they have to lose the weight? 2) Not all obesity is caused by overeating. Would this piggyback people who are born with expensive health problems such as epilepsy or depression who take medications that make them gain weight? What about those who have physical disabilities that prevent them from exercising?

    • Trond33

      It also ignores skinny people who have horrible diets and a lot of medical issues, such as being diabetic.  You do not need to be fat to be unhealthy.  

    • 1Brett1

      Excellent points.

  • maryrita

    I guess the professor, occasionally sneaking his steak at a restaurant, has never heard of hot dogs for dinner because they’re cheap, or stopping at McDonald’s for a quick meal between your 2nd and 3rd jobs.

    • daveincatskills

      Of course he hasn’t - he is an academic elite.  Nice and cozy with a nice living wage I bet along with a predictable work schedule and campus gym.  No mandatory overtime for him.  All is well for the 1%, but you better keep the rest off balance and under control. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000570151428 Jo Bleaux

    Question to those calling in saying they work to maintain their fitness: How many of you were obese since early childhood?

    • TELew

       I was a fat kid (at least according to other kids), and I have worked to maintain fitness since I was in junior high.  Working full time and rising gas and food prices (the cheapest hamburger is now $2.60 a pound) get in the way of this.  I do my best to eat fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, and I minimize my trash carbohydrate intake, but as someone for whom obesity runs in the family, it is largely a losing process.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000570151428 Jo Bleaux

        I’m in the same camp, TELew. A lot of people who grew up slim are very sanctimonious and have very little concept of the mechanics of a lifelong fat person’s struggles with weight.

  • carl_christian

     Given our current system, clearly it makes sense for companies to encourage their workers to lead healthier lifestyles in order to save insurance costs but I would be much more comfortable with a universal health care program administered by a democratically elected government — one which the Constitution guarantees my right to affect by participating as an active & engaged citizen; then I can engage my fellow Americans as equals to resolve the fairest way to fix our very large health problems. If it is only via corporate boardrooms that these problems are solved I have very little hope for America’s future as society or democracy; the corporate bottom line is extremely different from the goals of a democracy of the people and for the people.
    I do find it ironic that the NRA is blocking sensible gun ownership legislation because the tyranny of government must be faced with assault rifles while it is really corporate tyranny which is the greatest threat to our freedoms and personal control of our individual destinies. But unless the NRA is also going to claim that we each need to be armed against the likes of CVS and Michelin, surely putting these two issues side by side points once again to a strong participatory citizen’s democracy as the best solution for America’s polarizing & frankly schizophrenic devotion to personal liberties and privacy. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/BGHooke Bruce Hooke

    Asking someone to quit smoking is not a lot to ask! That commentator has clearly never smoked and never really known someone who was struggling to break the addiction to smoking! From all I’ve heard it can be one the hardest things many people ever do.

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      I will tell you right now that quitting smoking is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life.  I still dream about it 18 years later. 

  • Jim_Paw

    Perhaps I, along with my 2′nd generation Irish siblings, should be assessed a premium because our pigmentation predisposes us to skin cancer? This discussion distorts the real issue, money. If society made a conscious effort to be less like our eons old ancestors where maximum acquisition was essential to survival, if we decided an enlightened society removes any profit consideration from the health system we might take needed steps to true health. If you consider lack of outcry when Medicare cancer were to be dropped, or how health insurance companies do not care about mental health, only maintenance you can understand just how pathetic this situation is.

  • d clark

    Well, welcome to fascism! We were ALWAYS in more danger of business thinking they could rule our lives than government. But people just didn’t see that coming. We now need the government to tell them they don’t get to discriminate like that. Why not repeal the child labor laws. That would also be more cost effective. A cruel and brutal country is just around the corner.

    • jfenbauer

      i have often felt that the unions really missed the boat outlawing child labor. they have such agile little hands. (sarcasm here, but it’s true i love that my neighbors have children that i can have do my lawn work.)

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      And maybe we could open some debtor prisons and install  Barons instead of Governors.  I totally agree that the Conservatives would love a return to the good ol’ days of Dickens.

  • http://twitter.com/TimMCahill Tim Cahill

    Don’t believe anyone when they tell you the employers won’t see any of this info.  We’ve seen time and again how corporations have leaked or misused data.  If they can’t even keep our credit card and social security numbers safe, how will they be able to protect our genetic data?

    With regard to the comment by one of the woman guests about this testing being a positive step in terms of helping people get other help they might need (mental health counseling, for example). She neglects to mention all those other forms of help also cost more money.  In my case, to see a doctor or any other specialist, I have to pay a $30 co-pay.  It already costs way too much to eat properly – I can buy a box of Hostess cupcakes for less than a bunch of grapes!  If my budget only allows for the less-healthy, lower cost foods, how am I supposed to be able to pay even more for extra medical visits and procedures?

    • corrinna

      And, as just one example, going to mental health counseling will likely result in taking medication….which has a good chance of causing weight gain among many other “side effects” – this same weight gain can then cause their health insurance rates to go up?

    • OnPointComments

      You’re right about privacy concerns.  I know of a self-insured company with several hundred employees; although specific health cost information was not linked to a specific employee, there were enough locations and circumstances that the HR department knew which employee was seeing what type of doctor, the kinds of drugs prescribed to specific employees, and so on.  HR frequently discussed that X employee was being treated for depression, Y was on tranquilizers, Z was being treated for AIDS, etc.  Almost nothing was private.
       
      A manager in this company, making $60,000 a year, got cancer; the self-insured deductible was $100,000.  While the manager was recuperating, the manager’s spouse had a heart attack; another $100,000 deductible.  The boss remarked twice that the manager had cost the company $200,000.  Shortly after returning to work, the manager was fired.  It was a disgusting situation.

  • stillin

    Caught the tail end of the show. If someone work 2-3 jobs and is raising kids, they are NOT going to want to “go work out” “go for a run” or bake from scratch…they MAY want to go to sleep, or drink, or eat. I am not telling anybody what or how to eat, the information is out there, anybody can do it if they want. I myself bust stress outside but FAR BE IT FROM ME to tell anybody, working in this stresspot of a society, what THEY should do. Even if it costs me in insurance costs etc many, many people have no life whatsoever in this “rich” country, and so as far as I see it, they can do what they want, and will, or what they feel they need to do. I am in very good health knock on wood, cook from scratch etc. but I also have a position I like, I pay my bills off one job, not 3, and I have raised my kids. The stress in this country is supposed to kill off people is my bottom line thought, intentional. I believe that. Saves on soc and pensions and I am NOT kidding.

  • http://twitter.com/Communitymapper Susan Rice

    Once again this is about profit for big corp America, every 5 years I shop for life insurance its the only industry that will score my overall health using risk metrics….one more way to create hate and fear. Shifting the paradigm to personal responsibility is good, since no job is permanent the only solution is to move away from patriarch system, towards single payer. The speaker who references data integrity is in a dream world, real life is already referencing this data not for these altruistic purposes of wellness

  • ThirdWayForward

    It’s so bad, this idea, and so small-minded.

    Should women who can potentially get pregnant (and incur those substantial health care costs) be made to pay more for their employer-sponsored health insurance? 

    Arguably such women have control over whether they get pregnant, but nobody would defend this kind of discrimination.

    CVS should be doing everything it can to help its workers maintain and improve their health.

    But it should not be penalizing or stigmatizing or discriminating against some of them based on factors that have nothing to do with their job performance.

  • sickofthechit

    Bravo to Michelin Tire!  Tom, its called Actuarial Science.  With a large enough population they can predict how many “Toms” will have a cardiac event today.  That’s why we need National Health Care that includes each and every American Citizen.  The Affordable Health Care Act falls far short and we would have been better served with a National Wellness Care Plan instead.  Much lower initial cost and it is the “low hanging fruit” of the Health Tree that would yield a huge payoff.  Sadly, we are either to uninformed or to selfish….Charles A. Bowsher

  • daveincatskills

    Given the state of the economy, employers have tremendous power and they are bent on using it; “never let a crisis go to waste.” Work 40 hours plus all overtime we extend to you. Implied of course is the threat to “down size” them next if they aren’t “team players”. 
     
    Eating healthy is one component but if you are at a workstation for 60 hours a week or in the cab of an over the road truck you cant get your metabolic rate up to burn the fat much less do the more important things like spend time with your family.  So now we want to put the onus on the person without examining the employers contribution to the situation.  Keep employees on the defensive and keep the focus off of how excessive executive compensation is really killing the bottome line!  

    Personally, I dont like unions, however it seems that they are bound to come back to fight nonsense like this since it is only a matter of time until employees organize to fight this intrusion.  Way to go big business – establish the conditions for a resurgence of unions.  Brilliant!  More executive compensation!!          

  • aa2013

    It is important to look at the perspective of the employee, traveling to and from work is a static activity and most work stations require the worker to be static. This lack of movement does not help the health of an employee.  Most workers are stressed and exhausted after a days work, again not helping their health, mobility or motivation to do anything other than relax.
    Most workers enter the work force in decent shape and health. Move the clock forward 20 or 30 years and the daily statics demands faithfully given to an employer has contributed to the deterioration of their health.   

  • http://www.facebook.com/patrice.woeppel Patrice Woeppel

    It is ironic that employer attention is focusing on workers’ eating right and not smoking at the same time that we are ignoring a far more monumental cause of illness and death in our country. In the United States, deaths from worker toxic chemical exposures and other occupational illnesses are conservatively estimated by NIOSH and other researchers to be 50,000 to 60,000 deaths annually.
     
    Diseases such as cancers and asbestosis generally do not manifest until decades after exposure. Because the magnitude of occupational diseases is not generally known, it tends to be ignored.
     
    It should be noted that one’s health insurance will not cover an illness or injury identified as a work illness or work injury. And workers’ compensation misses over 80% of the medical costs for occupational diseases.
     
    It is a major and costly health issue – costly in lives, and costly in dollars. The economic burden for occupational illness, and death falls heavily on families and on taxpayers. Employers are virtually immune from prosecution for the depraved indifference that results in severe injury, toxic exposure, or death.
     
    At the same time, the national focus tends to be on what we, as individuals, can do to improve our personal health, such as stopping smoking and eating right. No attention is being paid to the elephant in the room: occupational diseases caused by toxic chemical exposures in the workplace, that may well be among the five leading causes of illness and death in our nation.
     
    Patrice Woeppel, Ed.D.

    • Trond33

      You have a very good point.  US society does have a penchant for blaming and focusing on the individual.  Not only occupational risks, but how about air pollution in major cities or the lack of healthy food choices in grocery stores and restaurants.  Its a overall system that needs to change. 

      • Stephen706

        It’s a good point, but there is nothing that prohibits the individual from getting up 30 minutes earlier every morning and going out for a walk, or drinking water instead of sweet tea/sugared sodas/juices–just plain water, or eating a simple healthy diet (nothing fancy, just cut out the junk and sodium), or putting down the cigarettes. These are real simple things–not obtrusive, not invasive. Do these DAILY and we would be a healthier nation. PERIOD.

  • 65noname

    great show!!!  You have as guests a reporter from the WSJ, an apologist employed by a business lobbying gang and a libertarian who says that the answer to the high cost of healthy food is for poor people to stop buying steak at the supermarket.

    Of course, no spokesperson from the multitude of organizations that speak for the real causes of sickness and unhealthy bodies; no spokesperson from medical organizations who might explain the science of how people are gentically predestined for poor health; no spokesperson for the problems of being a parent working 50 hours a week and trying to take care of children; no spokesperson for the concept that the purpose of insurance is to spread out the risk.

    As to the business organization spokesperson who says, amoung other astonishing things, that the employer counselor will give referrals to child care centers, do you really think that a parent making minimum wage can afford to send a child to child care enters?  If they could, wouldn’t they already be doing so?

    And, do you really think that the problem behind unhealthy eating is that poor people are buying too much steak?

    This show sets an all time low even for the neo-liberalism that it typically puts out.

    • Fredlinskip

      Not all that familiar with the term neoliberal- so I searched Wiki and now and am even more confused.
      It seems to be most associated with “typical” Conservative Republican policy:
      Neoliberalism
      So I see now that the guests do indeed fit in that category,  although I might argue that is not always viewpoint “typically put out” by this show.

      Your right- at least for today’s show, more “balance” would have been a plus.

  • brettearle

    If Employers discriminate in this way, then they’d better:

    –Make sure their buildings have clean, healthful air to breathe inside the work environment

    –Restrict cafeteria/employee cafe food only to nutrients approved by ADA, the Cleveland Clinic, and the Mayo Clinic 

    –Restrict motor vehicles, that park in their lots, to those who either do not have faulty catalytic converters or otherwise are proven to comply with emission control standards

    –Fire all managers and supervisors who create and cause undo and unnecessary emotional stress

    –Have background Musak that has been proven to soften the rigors of the day

    Etc.

    Etc.

  • pauly2468

    Many workplaces,if not most,have very limited options for healthy food,in the building or in surrounding areas and limited access to nature and,in many cases,even natural sunlight.
    Even so-called health facilities are hermeticaly-sealed against natural sunlight and fresh air and serve very unhealthy food.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.kay.7777 Gary Kay

    I left my last full-time employment in 2009. I worked for my last employer for 20 years. A typical work day involved rising at 3AM in order to get ready, eat a quick breakfast, and drive 25 miles to be at work at 5AM. The work week was normally 60 hours per week which often included Saturdays and occasional Sundays.

    Can you imagine 20 years of trying to take care of your health and work such a schedule? The money was very good, but a lot went trying to maintain my health.

    My assessment is that my employer was far more hazardous to my health than I could ever be a hazard to myself.

    It’s truly amazing the steps that the “self-righteous” take to harm their employees, and then have the gall to blame their employees for their bad health.

    These employers, I’m certain, would gladly support a law that would again legalize slavery.

  • Trond33

    While I applaud putting the onus on individuals who chose to lead a unhealthy lifestyle, such as bad diets, smoking, heavy drinking, drugs, etc. – there should be an onus on the employer also.  Is CVS Pharmacy providing gym access to their employees?  How about health educational opportunities and material?  Such a program is short sighted if it only put the onus on one side – the employee.  

    Basic fact is that the US healthcare system is going to have to start making the hard decisions.  No hart transplants for people with certain medical histories or over certain ages – does it make sense to extend the life of an 80 year old for another 3 years at a $500,000 cost?  If you have been smoking for 30 years and have lung cancer, yet continue to smoke, don’t expect society or insurance to pay for anything more than hospice care.  

    Bottom line, as a society, we all have to take responsibility for our actions and how those choices affect our health. 

  • Cabanator

    I don’t necessarily believe in a single-payer system, but I do think it’s obvious that the system of getting healthcare from one’s employer is not only flawed, but also very un-American. Why should my company tell me which health insurance plan I can have? I live in Massachusetts, and when I was unemployed for a brief period, I had the option of obtaining coverage through the state’s Health Connector exchange. Far from feeling like “government was taking over” my healthcare, I was pleased to find that I had the option of several different plans being offered by various insurance companies, and I was able to choose the level of coverage that met my needs. Most shocking of all, it was very affordable! I was shocked to find that as an unemployed person, I had so many more options than when I was working. I say get employers out of healthcare and let consumers make their own choices! 

  • http://www.facebook.com/liam.mcdonnell.5 Liam McDonnell

    This was a very one sided. All experts were on the side of the employer and none on the side of the real 60 hour a week worker if lucky to have a slave job.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Welcome to the beltway echo chamber.

  • Sandy Townsend

    A word about the “fulcrum” of this program which one caller mentioned briefly. It was totally weighted towards the corporate view, with 3 mouth pieces from different parts of that world. This trend of penalizing and stigmatizing people based on their health and presumed “lifestyle” is just another turn of the screws. Another way to divide people in pursuit of profit.
      Without any empirical evidence, I know, from experience and  long view of history, that the “life styles” that these quest talk about are, in large part, the result of the loss of political, economic and social power of the working class. Middle Class Professionals better wake up to this.

  • hennorama

    One commenter said something like “you pay more for auto insurance if you have an accident”.
     
    Extending this logic, not only will one be charged higher rates for various actuarial risk factors, they will be charged more for higher usage of health care services.
     
    This would discourage the routine checkup, management of chronic conditions, etc. and would make the insured more reluctant to use the insured services they have already paid for.

    One also notices that the CVS Pharmacy, Michelin, and GE programs are not incentive programs.  Rather, they are penalty programs.  Presumably, these corporations have calculated that the penalty will pay for the increased cost of the non-compliant employees’ health care.  Or the penalty will not only pay for the increased costs, it will also add to the corporate bottom line.

    • glenn keefer-mcgee

      I used my homeowner’s insurance exactly once, and they dropped me like a red hot skillet.  Insurance is a racket.  Capos, Consiglieres, and made men run it.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        “Make every claim like it’s your last” is the adage.

    • heatherqamar

      That’s the problem – when medicine in general – largely insurance companies – are run for profit, rather than the purpose of providing care, the quality will suffer as the profit climbs. If you are hit with cancer, should you be punished with higher rates? If your child breaks an arm ice skating, should you be punished? Insurance charges to create a pool to balance out costs and protect people from suffering from extreme medical-related financial crises. It seems strange to pay as much as we do in health care only to be told “if you use it, you pay more.” Why then pay in the first place?

  • 1Brett1

    Certain components of this concept seem to have merit…I’m concerned about how these programs get implemented and how health information is used (or even abused, or may in some cases border on an invasion of privacy).

    It makes sense that a person who takes very deliberate steps to keep his weight down, eat well, get plenty of exercise, etc., should pay a lower premium than a person who doesn’t take any steps toward healthful living and even has habits that are known to be detrimental to his health.

    There are areas, however, where employers could simply use how these programs are structured to either discriminate against certain employees or use these policy structures to not pay for needed health services, or they could monitor the employees’ habits excessively. 

    The demarcation line, for example, of waistlines (35″ in women; 40″ in men) doesn’t seem all that unreasonable on its face, especially (and as was discussed on the program) considering there would be five graded areas where there could be incentives to meet those areas’ standards through a reduction in costs (and considering there would be cost penalties as consequences if areas’ standards aren’t met). From a behavioral standpoint, this makes sense. If a man, say, is 5’9″ and has a waistline of 40″, this is approaching morbid obesity. However, if a man is a few inches taller, is older, has been overweight his entire life, is poor, is underpaid as it is, etc., a wellness-type program and counseling probably aren’t going to significantly change his health risks, and it would not be clear-cut that he would actually cost the company money. Increased insurance costs should be for an actual patient history of increased costs. (Car insurance companies do not charge people more if they drink alcohol, but they can and do charge more if a driver has had drunk-driving tickets/accidents.) There are areas where this gets murky, punitive, and paternalistic, especially if this hypothetical employee is trying but not getting the results that programs are targeting. 

    Also, the forced “second opinion” concept regarding surgery raised a potential red flag to me. If it is a genuine, private, unbiased consultation to discuss options only, that’s fine. But, considering this “consultant” is working for the company/insurer, it would be an opportunity for abuse, say, in a situation where a person needs hip-replacement surgery, he goes through with the second opinion to avoid paying the penalty, but the “consultant” recommends, instead of surgery, the person should do a series of exercise regiments and take NSAIDs. If the employee still decides it’s in his best interest to go through with the surgery (and this is based on other clinical advice that this is the best approach) it is an opportunity for the employer to sort of force the employee to do what the employer wishes.

    Another potential problem is employers’ monitoring of employees for possible infractions, so to speak. Your boss knows, as an example, you are not meeting your so-called health targets, and you participate in their forced wellness counseling and monitoring. Employees go out to lunch in a celebration with the boss, and he notices you’ve opted for a burger instead of chicken salad, or he notices you have put creamy ranch dressing on your salad instead of a vinaigrette, and so on. Will you get a warning slip a few days after and a threat that your policy configuration is in jeopardy? There are a lot of areas where an employer could punish employees excessively, or even simply engage in opportunistic capitalism by denying a raise, raising insurance premiums, give less than optimal employee evaluation marks, etc. 

      

  • Sandy Townsend

    “the free market is the American “final solution”

  • Russell Ludwick

    This is inevitable.  The fat food epidemic is skyrocketing healthcare costs.  People need to start taking responsibility for the food they eat instead of eating mcdonalds and drinking coke everyday and then taking drugs like lipitor to keep their cholesterol down. People need to start looking at eating crap is like smoking, it makes you high risk for high healthcare costs.

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.kanicki Steve Kanicki

    Some countries have dictators. The United States has Corporate America!

    How people eat, or exercise, or whether they exercise or not is their choice. No employer should have the right to tell an employee how to live, and eat and breathe on their own time.

    If I have to pay more so that others have their constitutional rights and freedom, then so be it.

    My God! What have we come to? 

  • 1Brett1

    Get employers out of the healthcare business now!

    • Christopher Bruce

      Your employer doesn’t choose your car insurance, home insurance, you’re right.. why are they in our healthcare business? Good point!

  • Carol_Ingram

    I tried calling during the show for over a half hour!!! Wanted to make two points.

    1.  I have had family medical for last 22 years. Up to the point where it was costing me $1300 per month…and me and my two girls were never sick!!! Just a quick check up every year…so in order to cut costs, I took on a second job getting me out of the house at 3:00am…and I come home and go to my ‘regular’ job until 8:00pm most nights….and my union dues pay for my medical, dental, and optical.  My question is…for all of you out there who pay tremendous costs per month who are never sick except for the occassional check up….where are all THOSE dollars going and why don’t WE GET something for just being healthy?

    2.  Secondly, with the over weight problem ballooning amongst our youth…why do you suppose this is happening more than it did in the 60′s?  I’ll tell you why…GENETICALLY ALTERED FOODS… I recently read that our simple wheat crops of today used to contain 14 chromosomes….and now wheat has 42 chromosones….with this altered wheat, our bodies are unable to process this food, it then becomes stored “fat”….and how many other foods has the FDA allowed this genetic alteration?  I think we need to make the government, FDA and the companies that are altering our foods to pick up the costs of health care because they have put us here – and they have done this ALL IN THE EFFORT of creating healthier, bigger, disease free, bug free products……and they can grow twice as much so they can LINE THIER Pockets….. 

    We the PEOPLE are the victims of this abuse….and now you are asking US to pay for it.

    Wake up America, please!

    Carol Ingram
    Middleboro, MA

    • AC

      how on earth did you get the guaruntee that you or your daughters would not suddenly be in a car accident or get cancer? i’d like to talk to that entity…

      • Carol_Ingram

        True, that could of happened, but DIDN’t.  so where have all the dollars gone, $1300 x 22 years = $343,200….. that’s what I’ve paid….and our medical costs over 22 years couldn’t have accumulated more than a couple thousand…. so I guess I HAVE TO pay for the sick?  At $15,600 per year…i think I’ve paid my fair share and more.

        • AC

          this is so ugly & inhumane & short-sighted, i can’t think!! that is for other people’s kids who have been hit by cars or have cancer – you’re paying into the pot, the one that you may need to draw from some day.
          you’re not a religious person, are you? certainly, i’m sure most of them say something about ‘do unto others’, etc…

          • glenn keefer-mcgee

            Of course, $1300 a month is totally egregious.  Especially given that it is essentially paying to be in an adversarial relationship.  On the other hand, if you can pay $1300 a month and still pay your bills I think you are doing alright.  you basically paid for a bunch of leeches boats.  The free market Rocks!

          • Carol_Ingram

            NO…I wasn’t doing alright…on 100% commission and some months I didn’t GET a commission as all my money went to paying for the insurance…so we skimped and struggled through…shortsighted view there buddy….we’re not all making $100,000 a year…not even $75,000….so yes, I was vigilant with medical coverage because I HAD to.

          • Carol_Ingram

            Sounds like you have been a recipient of the medical coverage…and I do practice the “glass is full” kind of life….you might want to try it.

          • AC

            A man is called selfish not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbor’s.
            Richard Whately

          • AC

            sorry i needed chemo to live. hope you can forgive me….i also hope you remember that pride goeth before the fall (if only i could be there when!)

    • jefe68

      That’s a very good question. The answer is a percentage is going to the CEO’s of the insurance corporations. But the lions share is going to the cost of health care across the board. What you’re on about is symptomatic of how broken our market based, fee for service system is.
      That’s the problem. 

  • hypocracy1

    In America, we don’t take the rich.. we tax the fat.

  • brettearle

    Very soon, now, the SHAME, that you condemn the country for, will turn into howls of EXULTATION, by the Elite.

    And any expression of SHAME, designed to vilify such prejudice by Employers, will be declared a felony, across the Land.

    • heatherqamar

      (Shudder)

    • keltcrusader

      Just another way for “them” to have “us” turn on each other instead of “them”.

  • ThirdWayForward

    kokkonobi: “The carrot approach doesn’t work.” Neither do the vast majority of programs for weight loss, smoking, alcohol and drug addiction. This is beating dead horses.

    Don’t you think that overweight people would love to lose weight if there were effective ways to do it? And even more so for smokers, alcoholics, drug addicts and gamblers? Most of these people have tried, often multiple times in their lives. At various points, many end up giving up and trying to accept themselves as they are. It amazes me how little understanding and compassion there is out there about these things, and it reflects very badly on American attitudes towards others.Those who have never had problems with their weight or with various addictions, such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling, don’t have a clue as to what having one of those problems is like — we just think “well why don’t they simply eat/smoke/drink/gamble less, and then they would be fine?”It doesn’t work that way, not at all — we still need to develop therapies that actually work for regular people, not celebrities.Long ago, we abandoned the general idea that ill health is an outward sign of sin. Obesity is not a sin — it is not simply a matter of gluttony. Metabolisms and life-situations are different. Many overweight people eat more calories for various reasons, some of them to cope with stress.Health insurers are already adding annual deductibles that in effect charge those who use more medical services more money. What CVS should do is to subsidize weight loss programs for its employees — that would be the helpful, supporting, non-stigmatizing approach, and it will pay off in the longer run with lower health insurance costs. The problem is that CVS is not expecting to be keeping its employees over the long run — they can always hire younger workers at lower wages and costs.

  • http://www.virginhealthmiles.com/ Chris Boyce

    Employers have the option to position wellness incentives as rewards (if you do this, you get XYZ) or penalties (if you don’t do this, you don’t get ABC). But in order for them to be effective and meet their organizational goals, employers must carefully consider how they position them and determine what approach will work best with their cultures.  Company culture is at the core of everything from employee engagement and productivity to retention to creating one of the best places to work.  The conversation around wellness programs should begin with: “What kind of culture do you want to create?”

    Wellness programs often fail when employers try to force actions rather than offer programs that are designed with the consumer in mind – ones that give employees the motivation and the tools they need to make healthy lifestyle changes in ways that work best for them. As employers, we should focus on creating great cultures that support healthy lifestyles and the overall well-being of our employees.  Take things like emotional health, physical health, financial health and social health, for example.  All of these contribute to healthier, happier, more engaged and more productive employees.  We’ve seen this approach work with our clients.  In addition to reaping hard rewards like lower healthcare costs, companies who support employee well-being and design their wellness strategies with their employees as consumers in mind tend to see higher participation and employee satisfaction as a result.  – Chris Boyce, CEO, Virgin HealthMiles
     

  • hoppdog1

    I’m in full support of this.  The metrics being tracked are things that can be controlled through life style choices.  I fully agree with the speaker who said ‘Corporate America should not be carrying the weight of employees’ obesity’.
    It seems to me that the folks who are opposed to this are yet another example of Americans who don’t want to assume any measure of accountability for their choices and circumstances. 
    Apparently people who are making good health a priority have reached the limit of their willingness to pay the health care bills of those who just will not.

    • OnPointComments

      The “slippery slope” may be a cliché, but it became a cliché because the slippery slope occurs so frequently.  You’re okay with charging more for overweight employees because their health expenses are higher, but how about the higher than average health care expenses for these choices:
      –married vs. single
      –women of child-bearing age
      –employees with children
      –tanned vs. pale employees
      –motorcycle vs. automobile drivers
      –risky hobbies (scuba, sky diving, sports, mountain climbing)
       
      And since you’re worried about reaching the limit of paying for others’ health care costs, why stop at choices? 
       –females vs. males
      –people with hypertension, mood disorders, asthma, migraine
      –old vs. young

      Where will you draw the line, and are you sure that everyone will draw the line at the same place?  I suspect that when the line is drawn at something that costs you, your support will wain.

  • Christopher Bruce

    Humans come in all shapes, sizes, and genetic predispositions. This is the resurfacing of Eugenics plain and simple.

    • J__o__h__n

      There were not this many obese and overweight people until recently and this is causing an expensive public health crisis.  The causes are more complex than just blaming the fat people.  Stoping corn subsidies would be a good first start.  I support rewarding and punishing people for poor lifestyle choices that result in higher health care costs but I’m very suspicious of it being administered by corporations who think they are only responsible to their shareholders. 

  • hoppdog1

    Humans become all shapes and sizes, they do not arrive that way Christopher.

    • Christopher Bruce

      You should tell that to children born with MS, Down Syndrome, Spina Bifida, big ears, shortness, tallness, heart defects, type I diabetes, brown hair etc….

      • hoppdog1

        The metrics we are discussing and the health-care cost burdens being shifted to employees are related to problems caused by obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease, ALL of which are largely preventable through life style choices.  We are not discussing the conditions you reference in your attempt to dodge responsibility for your own health and you know it.
        Put down your 64 ounce Pepsi and your family size bag of Doritos or – pay for your own ensuing health problems.  It’s really that simple.

        • brettearle

          She says,

          Self-righteously

          • hoppdog1

            Do you have anything substantive?

          • brettearle

            If you weren’t being so defensive, just above, you’d see that I was, quite crisply, adding something profoundly substantive….

        • ME_in_the_JT

           Have you ever looked at the natural world?  Dogs, cats, horses, other livestock.  Some tend toward fat, some toward thin, some live a long time, some don’t.  We cannot completely choose, it’s still a crap shoot from the get go which genes you are born with, you can only control so much.

          My vegan, thin, lovely sister has severe osteo arthritis of the cervical spine, she’s never been overweight, but she will require an expensive surgery to keep her head affixed to her spine before too long!

        • heatherqamar

          It’s not “that simple”. There is nothing simple about it. Not everyone who is heavy is hitting the Ho-Hos and guzzling Soda. There are a vast number of reasons people are heavy, and while food and exercise are helpful, they aren’t solely responsible for a person’s body size. Furthermore, if I am working hard at my job and contributing to the company, why shouldn’t I have the same benefits as others? This is discrimination, pure and simple. 

          • keltcrusader

            I have a sister with thyroid problems – weight is a constant struggle and she is a vegeterian who eats very healthy & stays active to no avail.

          • heatherqamar

            Thank you for sharing. Indeed there are a number of endocrine disorders and combinations of disorders, particularly in women, that can make pounds almost impossible to dissolve. You can be fat and fit! And you can be thin and unhealthy. We can’t make a single medical judgement that will apply to everyone – that’s why we need individualized care – not actuarial tables.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dhrosier Dreighton Rosier

    GROW UP!  Your couch the discussion as though the employers are acting against the employees’s interest.  You sound like a rabble rousing adolescent.

    How awful!  These dirty, nasty, mean, unfair employers want their employees to be more healthy, to encourage them to set aside controllable health risks!

    REALLY!!

    The total cost of employee compensation is a zero sum calculation.  The total cost of direct cash compensation, employer paid benefits and statutory costs (FICA, etc.) is essentially a fixed number.

    Designing the compensation program is an effort to find the most effective application of the total cash available.

    Truth is that employees who engage in high risk health behavior eat up a disproportionate amount of the cash available for benefits for all employees.  The employer is not going to make up the difference, cannot make it up because the product is already fully priced, the excessive cost of medical benefits for employees who are slovenly and / or self indulgent does eat into the ability to provide the best benefits possible to those employees who do take responsibility for themselves.

    Whining that this is overly theoretical will likely soar to the rooftops.

    The factors affect all compensation program planning even when they are not expressly recognized.

    • brettearle

      Hey, Mr. Welch….

      I think you bought the wrong Pinot Noir for your Chilean Sea Bass….

      Why don’t you repair to your Jacuzzi for a short time and chill out?

    • ME_in_the_JT

       And how about those who engage in high risk behavior like skiing, sailing, playing polo, playing sports in high school?  These people are far more prone to having expensive orthopedic surgeries for injuries and stress induced arthritis!

      • 65noname

        Don’t worry, they want to cut those employees out of health insurance also.

      • keltcrusader

        Horseback riding perhaps too?

        • J__o__h__n

          Dressage? 

          • keltcrusader

            Look at the avatar for D.R. above

    • 65noname

      actually, what employers want is to force employees to pay for all of their health insurance. 

  • AC

    can’t believe no one mentioned gattaca….

    • hennorama

      AC – (apologies in advance for the way my mind works)

      Your post brought to mind an image of employees of these firms picketing and protesting outside corporate HQ, shouting “GATTACA!  GATTACA!” a la Al Pacino trying to incite the crowd of onlookers by yelling “Attica!  Attica!” in the film Dog Day Afternoon.

  • Christopher Bruce

    Eugenics, genetic cleansing, didn’t we have a war to eradicate this?

  • ME_in_the_JT

    Honestly?  This is a slippery slope down which I don’t want to go!  Insurance companies for pets already discriminate by breed for certain illnesses.  How long before ethnic groups are not covered for certain genetic pre-dispositions?  As an example, my own family has a history of high cholesterol.  Mine was discovered when I was in my late 40′s.  My son, who is a  student, commutes everywhere by bicycle, is a vegetarian and well within normal weight limits has both high cholesterol and high triglycerides.  I ask you, where are we going to draw the line? 

    Also, the woman speaking for this method seems to think “health professionals, and therapists” are some sort of silver bullet for depression and stress.  Take it from one who knows, they are not!

    Way better to get money back from the companies that are profiting from junk food as Elizabeth suggests.  We also need to teach people boys and girls, men and women how to prepare healthy, tasty food at home and not go out to restaurants for every meal!

  • TomK_in_Boston

    I love the way some people are deeply afraid of big gub’mint but have not even noticed that big corporations are running their lives. Pathetic. The right all goes uh-huh, uh-huh when they hear that reagan line about the most scary words being “I’m from the gvt and I’m here to help”. Excuse me? What about “I’m from WellPoint, and I’m here to cancel your policy” or “I’m from Citi, and I’m here to take your home” or “I’m from Bane Capital. We bought your company, and you have to train your chinese replacement”???

    Open your eyes and see who the real enemy is.

  • J__o__h__n

    “Two people can eat the same food and have the same level of activity and look quite different.” – Then the second person needs to eat less and/or exercise more. 

    • heatherqamar

      I’d be willing to bet that the people working in places like CVS often have to work 2-3 jobs to make a living. Just because your employer will subsidize a health club membership or even have Weight Watchers at work doesn’t mean a person has time to DO those things. On top of it, unhealthy food is unfortunately cheap to buy and easier to get at all hours. Spending an hour at the gym every day is a great idea – if you earn enough to have one job and afford the extra child care. I’m not saying don’t exercise – but i’m saying that people often have many responsibilities – work, elder care, child care, etc so telling the person who is heavier just eat less and exercise more is not remotely fair. I have watched multiple people diet in a group – and no two lose at the same rate, everyone’s metabolism is different. On top of that, where do we draw the line? What if they start making you give family history – and charge various rates based on your family history for cancer, heart disease, diabetes etc.? May not be so easy then – this is a precedent for a slippery slope. The whole point of insurance is to provide a pool to balance out costs. Frankly, in my opinion, the concept of medical care and insurance being run for profit is asking for trouble – the profit starts to count over the top of the care. The same is true of education. You get rising costs, mediocre quality, and a vast gap between the lower earners and higher earners. 

      • J__o__h__n

        I agree with most of what you wrote but if you are taking in more calories than you burn, you need to eat less.  Or you need to exercise more.  All the other factors don’t change that. 

  • twenty_niner

    When pot is fully legalized, are we going to go after the evil pot companies for selling a product that causes lung disease?
    I see the plan now: legalize first and then sue.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Brownies

      • J__o__h__n

        That won’t help the obesity problem.

  • twenty_niner

    Are we really can do the “it’s impossible to find anything healthy to eat” dance again?

    Again, the salad is on the dollar menu.

    • Bibliodrone

      To the “dollar menu” guy: could YOU and your family subsist over the long term on a diet of McDonald’s side salads? Please. Poor people aren’t stupid. Like everyone else, they want to be healthy, but there are actual, structural barriers to that, and bringing up the Dollar Menu at McDonalds to try to somehow shut down that whole conversation is just…pfft. But it is a great example of attempted drive-by trolling.

      • twenty_niner

        Open challenge to the Chinese: Our liberals can make excuses better and faster than you any day. It’s one industry we’re never going to lose.

        People eat junk food because it tastes good. If there were no demand for KFC, it wouldn’t exist. If people really loved broccoli that much, we would have Broccoli Huts not Pizza Huts.

        Water is free at McDonalds and most restaurants (unless you are super-lib and only drink out of a bobble). I still drink tap. Most people (probably over 99%) are not drinking water at McDonalds, they’re opting to pay for the giant cup of sugar water. Start by switching to tap water and saving money in the process.

  • rockhauler

    SOME high blood pressure is preventable; SOME diabetes is preventable; SOME high cholesterol can be controlled without medication. a nurse should know that humans are not totally in control of their fate, even when they think they are, when they make responsible choices, and when they have an approving audience.  some of us with bmi’s of 21 have high cholesterol and hypertension and find it a drag to be constantly vigilant.  others can have fun without trying.

  • twenty_niner

    Edit: this was in response to TomK_in_Boston below but crap-tastic Disqus moved it here.

    Apparently you’ve never had to battle the IRS or a zoning board. I know a manufacturer who moved his entire company from California to Virginia, at a tremendous expense, because he couldn’t take the constant interruptions to his business and endless red tape. And he’s still being hassled by California long after leaving. The expense of moving and interruptions  to production cost a few customers and a few jobs.

    I can battle anyone of those companies you mentioned but the Government has resources I can’t match coupled with policing power, the power to seize property, and the power to incarcerate.

    When government really gets out of hand, you have this:

    http://www.testosteronepit.com/home/2013/4/5/my-talk-with-an-endangered-species-an-entrepreneur-in-france.html

    And then this:

    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-04-09/charles-gave-france-brink-secondary-depression

    • TomK_in_Boston

      You’re right,  I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with civil servants and I’ve never seen  anything to match the arrogance of corporate drones.

      OK, I believe your story. Why not ask someone who lost their home to a deregulated mortgage company that hired min wage “vice presidents” to sign the foreclosure documents on homes they didn’t even legally own who they think is “most scary”? Or try the workers laid off when Bane or another RICO “private equity” firm decides to suck all the wealth out of the company.

      • twenty_niner

        “Why not ask someone who lost their home to a deregulated mortgage company”
        Not to sound harsh, but I don’t think anyone who made all of their mortgage payments lost his home. And I do know many home buyers who paid way in excess of what they could afford for their houses, some hoping to flip the things within months of purchase. I remember the Zillow parties.

        Of course there were unscrupulous mortgage companies all over the place, including Country Wide, a company I shorted for a year, but they wouldn’t have existed without tons of uninformed buyers (at best, they were uninformed) knocking on their doors.

        Unlike governments, companies require that customers willingly part with their money and hand it over. The easiest way to send a company to oblivion is to stop paying it, unless you’re a Wall Street bank with powerful friends in the government.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          Good one shorting Countrywide. I just shorted the SPX.

          I’m afraid you have a bit of ‘blame the victim’, underestimating corporate power,  and are naive about how the market self-corrects when we simply stop paying bad companies. Even when it does, the correction usually happens only after the damage is done.

          Unlike corporations, legislators require that we willingly elect them. When I call my senator or congressman, I do not have to navigate an automated telephone system. I get a staffer who is willing to listen.

          • twenty_niner

            “I just shorted the SPX.”
            Maybe I’ll do that in a month. I’m really waiting for the Fed to end its endless QE programs, before I really get back in the market.

            “I get a staffer who is willing to listen.”

            You must work at Goldman Sachs. No wonder you like the government!

          • TomK_in_Boston

            Now that we mention it, I don’t think some out of the money puts for may or june could go far wrong.

            Yeah, that’s me, GS.

            I do agree that we have a very sick combination of gvt and corps, which is one definition of fascism.

  • rockhauler

    i’ve decided that some of the people in this discussion are genetically arrogant – they think they’re in control and have all the answers. life and death are crap shoots, and i’d like to be a fly on the wall when some of these people are told they have cancer.

  • daveincatskills

    Simply put this is just one more case of cost shifting.  Corporations have shifted retirement costs to the individual through the elimination of pensions, after already shifting the burden of retiree healthcare to the taxpayers through medicare and medicaid.  The reason for the costs going up in those two programs is corporations mandate using them before tapping into their insurance. 

    Some may say that corporations pay too much in taxes with a marginal rate of 35%, however their effective rate (what they really pay) is 12% or 0!  Corporations pay $200 B in taxes yet individual taxpayers pay $1.2T.

    So corporations want to shift more costs to the individual fine.  Lets use “most admired corporations” as a bench mark in this transition.  This could be improved upon by adding other dimensions like executive compensation ratio, mandatory overtime requirements, employee health support and other tangible factors. If corporation arent’ a “most admired employer” they should pay a penalty to correct their behavior.  Let start with $12,000 paid to each employee in the first year.  If they don’t correct it goes up the following year to $18,000 per year.  You get the drift.

    Lets recognize cost shifting and corporate greed when we see it.  Rather than put some new process in place let’s establish a flat corporate tax and get them to pay their fair share and stop this intrusive nonsense. If they dont, mobilize and start holding them accountable to really be admired corporations. 
     

  • twenty_niner

    “14 wounded in Texas college stabbing attack”

    http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57578677/14-wounded-in-texas-college-stabbing-attack/

    We need background checks for knives now?

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Dead and wounded are different.

      Geez, why didn’t one of those heavily armed texians shoot the perp?

    • jefe68

      Off topic and hyperbolic.

    • JGC

      Maybe. But not on airplanes.

  • TomK_in_Boston

    To turn this topic around, can I get a discount if I qualify for the  US Masters swim nationals :)

  • Markus6

    Wonderful topic – I wish I’d heard the show.

    I think people miss the point when they start to attack corporations or Obamacare or private insurance or any of these methods. Regardless of the mechanism for payment or providing care, the issue is the same: How much can others control the personal habits of individuals when these habits may result in costs to others. 

    Some of the easy decisions have been made already. Seat belts, helmets for motorcyclists … now we’re getting to the interesting stuff. Soda bans in NYC and other municipalities. Employer penalties for being overweight. And as others have pointed out, it’s just starting. 

    If I stay in shape, is it fair for me to have to pay through taxes (if the government pays) or higher premiums (if the company pays) for others who have a fondness for Doritos and coke. On the other hand, should they have to pay when I need a knee replacement from running some stupid marathon or suffer head trauma while riding my bike. All these are personal choices. 

    The problem stays the same regardless of who pays (though when the government pays, it’s much more hidden). 

    I have no idea what the answer is. 

  • s.l. hopkins

    My father died this weekend at 80.  If there had been a program which required his to quit smoking 30 years before he did quit, he last decade would have been more mobile, less dementia and less hard on him and his wife.  Ask children if they think a program which makes their parents healthier is unfair.  They will say no, make my loved ones heathier. 

  • andic_epipedon

    I can’t believe what I’m hearing.  35-inch waist for females.  When I was a 20 year old collegiate athlete with 12% body fat and worked out 6 hours a day I fit below that 35 inch waistline.  When I was in my mid-thirties, had an active job, had a gym at my work and had a less stressful job than is common for my field I lost a ton of weight and felt super healthy.  I threw a party when I fit into a 38-inch pair of jeans.  Obesity is half genetic. And so is the ability to pack on muscle, which I also have.  No matter what you do, you are going to retain some weight if you are genetically predisposed.  Not all fat that people carry is unhealthy.  The same corporations that made me more stressed out and more fat than I should be are the ones penalizing me for the pain and suffering they put me through. Incidentally, my wages for my jobs did not reflect the amount of stress they put me through.

    • http://twitter.com/FemBot9000 Christina F.

      Agreed.  Why don’t they just hold up a Barbie doll and tell us that’s our standard and if we don’t look like the Barbie doll we get the penalty.  I am alarmed at the blanket measurement standards.  There are so many different body types, this just cannot work well.

  • Bibliodrone

    I listened to this show this morning and had lots of thoughts about it, but I see others have raised many of my concerns already.

    I too was surprised by the one-sided nature of the discussion. The host basically said to a caller who raised this objection, that this policy is a fait-accompli so what’s the use of discussing its fundamental validity? I hope that was not really what he meant.

    I am fit, and in shape, but I don’t believe for a second that these policies are aimed at somehow “rewarding” fit employees or benevolently encouraging “healthy habits”. That’s PR spin that I imagine is aimed at furthering the idea that systemic societal problems are really all about “personal responsibility”, an attitude which many in the U.S. might self-righteously share, at least until they or someone they care about has a health crisis of their own.

    Nevertheless, the encouragement of such an attitude among workers helps stave off opposition to programs like these, at least until people wake up and realize that the real goal is not to encourage better health, but instead to shift more costs off of the employers and on to the employees–a quick fix approach to the much larger and unresolved problem of having one’s employer be in charge of one’s access to health care in the first place.

    As others have said, if employers really cared about fostering better employee health, they would be reconsidering the ergonomic and psychological damage that the stresses and uncertainty of the Recession-era workplace have visited on to so many of us.

  • Bibliodrone

    “…all these are personal choices.” Do you really want some company-hired consultant sitting in judgement of you when you need help, second guessing the care your doctor says you need? Where will the incentive lie in that process?

  • Sy2502

    As soon as someone is paying for you, that someone gets to boss you around, simple as that. That’s why I have always been in favor of a pay-as-you-go health care system. And if you can’t pay as you go and need government money then I guess you get to be told by the government how to live your life. Land of the free? Not even close.

    • Bibliodrone

       “As soon as someone is paying for you, that someone gets to boss you around, simple as that.”

      Easy to say as long as it’s someone else being treated like a slave. And last I heard, people WORK for their benefits, they aren’t being “paid for” for free. And as for “pay as you go” (which would work great until you had a real medical condition needing treatment), being poor and/or unemployed doesn’t mean you give up all your rights and dignity. Or rather, it shouldn’t.

    • hennorama

      Sy2502 – you wrote “As soon as someone is paying for you, that someone gets to boss you around, simple as that.”

      That is true, but there are limits. The employer “gets to boss you around” about your employment, but not about your lifestyle, or what you do away from the workplace. Generally, an employee’s off-duty conduct is off-limits as far as employers are concerned.

      There have already been significant damage awards against employers who make assumptions about obesity or other similar factors. In addition, various health conditions related to weight and/or obesity, may afford employees protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, without regard to the degree or cause of the employee’s obesity, may bring about ADA protections for the employee.

      See:http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/19486/weight-discrimination-in-the-workplace-realities-and-legalities

      http://www.aarp.org/work/on-the-job/info-11-2011/weight-discrimination-in-workplace.html

      http://www.bizfilings.com/toolkit/sbg/office-hr/managing-the-workplace/employer-control-employee-off-duty-conduct-limited.aspx

    • Sy2502

      I am absolutely NOT condoning using the fact someone else pays for you to take people’s liberties away. I am simply stating a reality. Mayor Bloomberg has shown us that the money excuse can be used by the government to meddle in all sorts of people’s personal choices. Which is why the only real way to have complete freedom is to be in full control (pay as you go). 

  • harverdphd

    Caller Elizabeth says:

    “It’s really important not to blame the victim…It’s a
    systemic, cultural problem.  If we want to save money, if insurance
    companies want to save money, why don’t they take some of the profits
    from Frito-Lay, from some of the advertising companies that literally
    shove this stuff, the sugars, the fats, down people’s throats?”Another liberal weenie who wants government to do their stealing (and everything else) for them. Literally. 

    • twenty_niner

      The image says it best.

  • harverdphd

    I saw the article in last weekend’s WSJ , and given PBS dependence on the WSJ I thought, ” wow…this’ll put Cory right into orbit….”

  • krhenderson

    Innumerable studies show that we get behavior/academic gains more readily and more permanently when we reward students rather than subject them to punitive policies.  Of course, the school systems are currently operating more and more as if this research was never conducted.  Why…WHY don’t we use the knowledge we have about human behavior to inform our policies?  The only answer I can come up with is that the people making the policies know that the people who will be punished (in this case monetarily) won’t be the people in leadership positions.  By that I mean: the white male power structure (and several wealthy women, too) makes decisions that negatively affect people with whom they have never had to associate and therefore don’t understand.  

    That aside, what will this do, if anything, to change the “work like you have no life outside of work if you want to get promoted” mentality that plagues this country’s corporate culture?  We have a terrible work-life balance in this country, in most every field there is, and that leaves people with the choice to take care of themselves (and ostensibly their health) or take care of their careers.  If this is a real push from companies, are they going to stop promoting the people who stay until 9 pm over the people who leave at 5 and say, “Gotta get to the gym and then play with my dog and then have a nice dinner with my family”?  Because the latter person has lower blood pressure and all sorts of other indicators of better (cheaper) health…

  • jazminesinc

    I have worked for Holiday Retirement for 4 years.  This is a company that is “suppose” to offer a “healthy” lifestyle for seniors still living indepedently.  The company was purchased by a Hedgefund, Harvest Management, whose #1 goal, as is w/ all of these investment groups, is to make their balance sheets “appear” incrediably profitable so they can sell w/ huge profits and run.  There is absolutely NO concern for the health and welfare of their “human capital” nor their residents. 
     
    The work hours and pressure to perform has cause HUGE stress related issues, including weight gain, onset of autoimmune disease, more smoking and less exercise. 
     
    I am appaulled.  I came to this company in fantastic shape, 56 years old, 114 lbs, a yogi, pilates practitioner, organic diet, and w/ a ratio of HDL and LDL’s not seen before.  NO  longer.  I have been under so much stress, I have to drag myself to the gym and constantly force myself, albeit exhausted, to eat a healthy diet.
    I never wanted to be charged for my baggage on an airplane when someone 100 lbs overweight is not penalized for their extra pounds.  But corporations need to look at the stress factors and the fact that they are the cause of health problems!
     

    • hennorama

      jazminesinc – Time to start the job search, or to open your own yoga/pilates business, or both.  Assuming you haven’t already done so, that is.

      Leave the corporate masters behind – you’ll be better off for it, based on your story.

      Best wishes for your future success!

      • jazminesinc

        Thanks, job search has been ongoing!  Hoping for something to break.  Unemployment rather high here and I’m almost 60.  But I’m damn good at what I do and have helped dozens of famiies and their loved ones.  There will be reconcilliation at some turn!

        • hennorama

          jazminesinc – ironically and unfortunately, you seem to have a ready supply of customers in your current co-workers.

          Quality and expertise are always in demand, so perhaps going out on your own might be appropriate.

          Again, best wishes for your future success!

  • lujaha

    Let’s look at this different. Why don’t we give penalties to the companies that give us bad food. They made the money off the people who are obese now! Go to a not so affluent area, visit a grocery store and it looks very much different than in an affluent area! Why do we have an epidemic of soft drink drinkers in West Virginia  kids with rotten teeth when they are 5 years old! Sodas are so cheap, cheaper than milk! What is wrong with our society, we take the money from the poor, give them less valuable food and then wonder about the consequences.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1773601213 Jo Ann Vincent

    3 issues here  1.The Healthcare System  is inefficient, ourageously expensensive, and outdated.  2.  Indiviuals  need to make bettter life style choices.  3. We as a country need to make healthy food easy to access & affordable. Fast Food is EVERYWHERE & Cheap…  Just look at mass of fast food places as you drive around

  • http://www.facebook.com/carolyn.crumpacker Carolyn Crumpacker

    We must not accept the ‘reason’ for this requirement to be the “big brother” effect.  If it is a problem for the other employees in the company…then let the employees make the decision about it.

  • TomK_in_Boston
  • Gordon Green

    Totalitarianism has been privatized. 

  • Cabanator

    This is such an interesting topic, and of course, it’s a lot more complicated than it seems. Problem # 1 is that employers have anything to do with employees’ healthcare coverage. This doesn’t make any sense, and has contributed to rising healthcare costs by taking power and competitive choice away from the consumer. 

    I am a healthy weight, eat good food, and exercise regularly, and I empathize with those who are similar and don’t feel they should have to subsidize people who “don’t take care of themselves.” However, it’s not as simple as telling fat people to “eat better and exercise more.” Our society has an obesity problem not just because people woke up one day and decided that they wanted to be fat. No one really wants to be fat. I often think about how much time and money I invest in being healthy. Yoga classes, sporting equipment, and fresh, home-cooked meals are time consuming and expensive, and all of this is paid out-of-pocket. Yoga is so good for mental and physical health, but I have yet to find an insurance company that covers yoga classes. At $15 a pop, this can really add up. Insurance companies instead pay out huge sums to medical specialists who have a pill or procedure solution. If you have back pain, yoga might help (and not just your pain, but your stress level, weight, blood pressure, etc.), but on a limited income, you might feel forced to opt for the prescription pain meds covered by insurance instead. Insurance companies could start with more comprehensive programs for reimbursing healthy activities or healthy food purchases. In the long run, they would be saving themselves a lot of money. And, of course, employers also need to allow their employees the work-life balance that leads to a healthy lifestyle. 

    I agree that individuals need to take foremost responsibility for their own health, but I also think that there are many cultural and economic forces that contribute to the problem. 

  • http://twitter.com/FemBot9000 Christina F.

    It really galls me that employers are doing this when they have created work conditions that keep people at their desks and working overtime (without pay) in this age of employee layoffs and such.  If my employer were to do this I’ll be dammed if I work one minute over 40 hours.

  • periphion

    I work a highly skilled job and am well below the poverty level because of the “economy” while affluent people that hang out on facebook all day gain incomes exceeding 9 times my wage. This creates high blood pressure in me. Is it right to charge me more because I’m held down by those in control?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1421720444 Christian Brunner

      Exactly what I was wondering…what are the employers paying if their stress inducing demands cause the health problems???

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=592894792 Heather Huber Lai

    How
    is that fair? The media makes it sound like everyone who is overweight
    has health problems and that only overweight people have problems with
    blood pressure, type II diabetes, arthritis, etc. For instance, both of my
    parents are overweight. But neither
    of them have any of the problems that are commonly associated with being
    overweight. They do however, have health problems with are associated
    with genetics and old injuries. Should they have to pay more for
    problems that have nothing to do with their weight simply because they
    are overweight? By
    this reasoning we should be charging men more than women because they
    are more likely to get very expensive chronic diseases because they refuse
    to comply with treatments and check ups to find and deal with
    problems with they are small. We should genetically
    screen everyone before coverage so we can charge them more if they are a
    carrier of a genetic disorder like Cystic Fibrosis or Sickle Cell
    Anemia. We should charge anyone who drinks any alcohol more because they are
    more likely to have diseases and injuries related to drinking alcohol,
    we should charge smokers more because they are more likely to get a
    whole slew of very expensive diseases, we should charge people who have
    children with special needs more because they’ll be more likely to use
    the system than people without children that have special needs. If you make it okay
    start pigeon holing people who should be charged more than other people
    for something like health coverage provided by your employer then eventually
    they’ll find a way to charge just about everyone more.

  • rosey123456789

    I have read quite a few of the comments below, and many seem to think this is generally a bad trend for employers.   BUT should we not be incensed about insurance companies doing this?  one of the first questions the insurance companies ask is do you have a medical condition, quickly followed by how old are you and are you overweight… Insurance companies have been allowed to do this.

    We don’t need insurance, we need 100 percent health care.  why have we allowed a profit seeking business into the process of caring for our people?  seems clear to me, it is a conflict of interest.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1421720444 Christian Brunner

      Because it’s wrong, health insurers are no longer allowed to deny coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.

      • rosey123456789

        if t is wrong to deny a person coverage for pre existing conditions, then what about charging them more for it. my point is singular

        lets get insurance companies out of our healthcare. profiting from peoples sickness is wrong.

  • JGC

    Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo CEO in Fortune, 27 April 2010:

    “If all consumers exercised, did what they had to do, the problem of obesity wouldn’t exist…

    If I look at our portfolio, I think you can classify them into three groups:  “fun-for-you” products like Pepsi, Doritos, Lays and Mountain Dew;  “better-for-you” products like Diet Pepsi, PepsiMax, Baked Lays, Sobi Life Water, Propel, all those products;  and “good-for-you” products like Quaker, Tropicana, Naked Juice and Gatorade.

    There’s a place for balance in everyone’s portfolio.  Our overall goal is to increase the number of great tasting “better-for-you” and “good-for-you”  products, while making sure our “fun-for-you” products still have a place in consumers’ lives.”

    Thanks, Indra.  BTW, one comment I have to make is, if you have to call it a “product”, it probably is not a “food”.

    • Anne Padddock

      “Better for you products like Diet Pepsi, Pepsi Max, Baked Lays” Sobi Life Water, Propel and “Good for You” products like Quaker, Tropicana, Naked Juice and Gatorade”…..are you serious…you can’t be serious…

      • JGC

        I especially appreciated the way Nooyi deflected the responsibility of weight management to people not getting enough exercise, rather than people enjoying PepsiCo products a little too much. 

        Full disclosure:  I drink diet Pepsi on a daily basis, but I have never deluded myself into thinking it is a “Better-for-Me” product.

  • http://twitter.com/DruideAbfalter Christian Brunner

    Remember the “Death Panel” rumor? The charge that Obama-Care means government officials are deciding what level of care we should get? Now the employers who support the politicians who made those delusional charges want to hire health care professionals who decide whether a medical procedure is necessary for their employees or not!!!
    So the answer is not the government, but the corporations should be the ones deciding over our well-being? Corporations??? What is wrong with you people???

  • everfoxy

    Is it a slippery slope from how we eat and exercise to whether there’s been a cancer diagnosis in our backgrounds?  I maintain a healthy weight, use the treadmill and weights, and have participated in 5k’s.  Several years ago I had a cancer diagnosis.  It’s the kind of cancer that can remain indolent for a long time and it’s better not to treat until there’s progression.  My cancer is indolent because I have the good genetics for this type of cancer.  People with other genetics need treatment sooner and may need it repeatedly.  This is genetics.  Healthy living habits don’t prevent this kind of disease, just as my friends who have had breast cancer didn’t do anything to cause their cancer. 

    I’m tired of reading general comments about obesity increasing someone’s risk of cancer.  Supposedly, eating too much fat makes someone susceptible to certain forms of cancer, though I haven’t seen any scientific evidence.  Most of the people I know who have ever been diagnosed with cancer eat healthily and aren’t obese or even overweight.  Some people think it’s okay to blame people with lung cancer for their cancer.  They think that only smokers get lung cancer.  Actually, there are many causes.  In fact, lung cancer is one of the likely secondary cancers for people with certain types of leukemia.

    My point is that monitoring a person’s health by insurers or employers might easily go beyond what people can control and penalize people for health events they can’t avoid. 

    Not discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions was supposed to remove bias from health care coverage.  Employers and insurance companies shouldn’t take steps that discriminate.  The reason is this:  ANYONE CAN BE ONE DAY AWAY FROM A DIAGNOSIS THAT MAKES THEM UNINSURABLE NOW AND MIGHT PUT THEM IN THE PENALTY CATEGORY IN THE FUTURE.

  • mkmdm2

    What about women who want to get pregnant, will they have to pay a penalty?

  • mkmdm2

    What about women who want to have a child?  Will they pay a penalty?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tracylj1964 Tracy L Johnson

    I haven’t been this angry in a long time.  Reporting to my employer my vitals IS an invasion of privacy.  And I resent it.  NO ONE has the right to tell another human being how to live their life.  1984 has arrived!  I have struggled with my weight since 3rd grade.  I have been on every diet known to man, excercised etc.  I am tired of dieting.  Just saying the word diet I gain a lb.  I just want to live my life.  I am a stress eater and I have a lot of stress at work.  Implementing this would create more stress for me for employees and will have the reverse desired effect.  Yes I am overweight but I am in excellent health.  Yes high triglycerides which I take Niacin and fish oil supplements for.  I have low blood pressure and I am hardly ever sick, maybe a cold a year.  I only go to the doctor for my annual check ups and I am 48 years old. I stopped eating meat other than seafood and poultry in 1987. I love vegetables and fruit.  YOU CANNOT PUT PEOPLE IN A BOX no on person has the same biology.  I know two women in particular who are very thin and are in very poor health.  One has high blood pressure which runs in her family and she has rheumatoid arthritis, she is 8 years younger than me.  The other has a cold every month, chronic cough and is probably 10-15 years younger than me.  I have heard more than one story about marathon runners dying during or after a race.  They are supposed to be the healthiest of people.  Guest on the radio talked about how there are easy steps to fix a persons weight problem.  It is always easier for those who have never had this struggle.  If you have a problem with overweight people, then it is just that, your problem.  Worry about your own issues and I will worry about mine.   

    • WeCanBeBetter2

      Amen Girl!

  • JGC

    ***IMPORTANT***  If I had known this 15 years ago, I would have avoided the Twinkies and Doritos, along with the booze:

    “Expectant mothers who gain large amounts of weight tend to give birth to heavier infants who are at risk for obesity later in life…highlighting the importance of weight management even before birth…  studies suggest that excess maternal weight or excess weight gain during pregnancy affects the uterine environment, producing changes in the hypothalamus, pancreatic islet cells, fat tissue and other systems that regulate body weight… “Hormones and metabolic pathways, and even the structure of tissues and organs that play a role in body weight maintenance are affected,” says David Ludwig, MD, PhD of Harvard Medical School.” – from the Harvard Gazette, 2010

    So what this is saying is, just like it has been established that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome irrevocably and detrimentally affects the fetus, there is also the likelihood that there is an equivalent Fetal Junk Food Syndrome, which will affect the in-utero babies who develop while bathed in an amniotic solution of Big Gulps and Lays Bar-B-Q potato chips. They are condemned to a life of increased risk for obesity and for developing diabetes, along with other health risks. And now, apparently, also doomed to increasingly diminished employment prospects, as they are rejected in the initial job application process.

    • Gregg Smith

      Somehow I get the feeling you don’t have fat drunk kids, don’t beat yourself up. 

      • JGC

        Well, so far, so good.  My grandmother from Georgia, who had 9 kids during the Great Depression, felt she had succeeded as a mother because none of them ever landed in jail.

        But this is to say, scientifically, there is a basis for avoiding weight gain because it will likely be passed on to the next generation, and at the cellular level.  Just take a look at the physiques of people in a news clip from 30 or 40 years ago, and compare it to the folks you see around your town today. I shoulda known it was a mistake to eat Swanson chicken dinners, Pop Tarts and Space Food Sticks while watching the latest episode of the Brady Bunch, back in the day…

        • Gregg Smith

          It’s amazing any of us survived.

  • JGC

    Bloomberg took a ton of flak for trying to downsize the intake of sugary drinks available to New Yorkers. Now the employers are forcing the same issue, but with an additional monetary penalty to their workers;  I guess that is all right with the Free Marketeers. 

  • DSTL

    If smoking or obesity cause companies such problems that
    they need to coerce their employees to change, then maybe instead of penalizing
    anyone, they should extend the rewards to all slender, non-smoking employees,
    whether they’ve transformed themselves or simply fit the criteria in the first
    place.  Also, if we’re going to pick on
    people for one or two unhealthy traits, shouldn’t we pick on people for all
    unhealthy choices?  Athletes reduce their
    risk for heart disease, but increase their risk for expensive injuries.  Shouldn’t they pay more for insurance?   When companies start penalizing employees
    for eating Cheetos or McD’s value meals, will we see campaigns to pit us all against
    vegans and granola enthusiasts?  Sure, we
    need to improve our health in America, but are we allowing corporations to
    enslave their employees too far beyond the work day?

  • WeCanBeBetter2

    These guests are out of touch. The cost of health care is driven by for-profit insurance companies and outrageous civil litigation settlements. Companies who self insure are at their mercy. My company has reduce our staff by 1/3 = hundreds of jobs over past few years to cut costs. Meanwhile, the pool of those left who support the rest is dwindling. So the higher costs are being passed on to employees. The guidelines by which we can access our healthcare is also becoming very specific. Our company has imposed a $500 penalty if you are “obese and/or a smoker. The BMI index is being used as a guideline. According to this index, roughly 2/3 of our staff is obese. This is rediculous. I am a 54 year old woman who is  considered “obese” and “at risk” for Type II diabetes. Yet when tested, my blood pressure is in normal range and my cholesterol levels are excellent. I try to stay away from doctors as much as possible. I am active- walking, bike riding, hiking, canoeing etc… and eat healthy more often than not, yet I am still penalized because I don’t fit into the one size fits all criteria. I agree that the companies who push junk food should subsidize our increased healthcare costs. They certainly have enough money to advertise on TV day after day so I think they can afford it. Many of my co-workers would love to have a health club membership but it is too costly. The gentleman who said he doesn’t believe that healthy food costs more than unhealthy food is nuts. It sure does.  It was a rediculous statement to make about buying meat. “If you can buy meat, you can afford other healthy food” Are you kidding me? I have been around long enough to know that this push is all about money… not some altruistic notion that insurance companies really care about my health. This is just legalized gambling… They are rolling the dice on us to make money and now they need to load the dice to have more control over what they are willing to pay out if we need healthcare. If this keeps going we won’t be able to afford insurance at all. I’m waiting for someone to sue over this… that should be interesting…

  • BOBinRSI

    Hmmmmmmm?

  • http://www.facebook.com/bob.gasper Bob Gasper

    When it comes to health, you should not just take your doctor’s word on everything or even the president. You don’t need to take on student loan debt but can get an education for yourself by reading. One of the problems is we have sooo much conflicts of interest between private industry and government. Check out “Confessions of an Rx Drug Pusher by Gwen Olsen or “The Truth About the Drug Companies by the former editor in chief of The New England Journal of Medicine.
    Back in the eighties high blood pressure was considered anything over 140/90. Because on conflicts of interests, a board of doctors recommended the definition be lowered to 120/70 and it was instant profits for the pharmaceutical companies. You should read a couple of articles on this. One is by Doctor Malcolm Kendrick http://www.drmalcolmkendrick.org/2012/04/02/does-treating-highblood-pressure-do-any-good/ also chapter 5 in “Selling Sickness” by Ray Moynihan and Alan Cassels.
       How many people ever stop to consider the cause of thyroid conditions which can have a contributing cause for weight gain. It maybe lurking in the water and those healthy fruits and vegetables. Dupont came up with a gas process for fruits and vegetables to help extend the life of the products which contains fluoride. In 2006 the national research council did a required update study that is done every ten years on fluoride. The NRC recommended that the maximum contaminant level goal be zero. You can read about it at http://www.actionpa.org/fluoride/nrc/Carton-NRC.pdf The study found that if you do not get enough iodine in the diet, the thyroid will take up fluoride because they are chemically very similar and it will cause problems. Thyroid problems in the US are estimated to be very high numbers with opens up another market for big pharma. Also do a search for January 7 2011 US says too much fluoride in water – USA Today.com or EPA and HHS Announce New Scientific Assessments. These articles ring an alarm bell that 41% of 12 to 15 year olds have dental fluorosis. There was a consideration to lower the levels of fluoride for the first time ever. But nothing has been changed to this day. The CDC continues with their goal to fluoridate all of the US water supplies. The CDC is the first to call a person who questions this a nut. They do this with their power and prestige so you will not look into the subject for yourself. You can get the other side of the story   by searching youtube “The Fluoride Deception” and reading the book by Christopher Bryson.   There are many other books and sources of information on this as well.
      When it comes to diabetes, read Surgar Nation and how the recommended diet by the American Diabetes Association will give you diabetes. It is written by an editor in chief at Muscle and Fitness and executive writer at Men’s Health.
      I started reading for myself years ago about the scam on cholesterol and it lead from one subject to another. There are many good books out there that are highly referenced. Today I enjoy very good health as a result of my reading endeavorer
     

  • Thinkfreeer

    The whole idea behind insurance is to spread the cost risk of an event over time and many people. If you charge more for older people, or any other people who have higher risk factors, it undermines the whole system. Taken to the end, it goes back to a system where you pay for what you need. If you are always healthy, you pay nothing. That’s free enterprise.

    There is another issue. Some prescribed medicines CAUSE weight gain. So there you have a situation where the insurance company is paying for the diagnosis and the medicine, and the result could be that the individual has to pay more just for being overweight.

  • New_Heretic

    The following goes beyond the weight issue, but was also addressed on the program in the same aspect:

    As a smoker I am irritated that once again everyone seems to be waving the very same banner again: charge the smoker! From every cigarette purchase I make, a portion is paid by the tobacco company to both the State of Michigan (where I live) and the Federal Government. These payments are meant to settle the tobacco companies’ liability for health care costs incurred by the various State and Federal Agencies in the past; obviously people were under the impression they would punish the tobacco companies, but like any corporation they passed that cost onto the current consumer!

    Those costs pale in comparison to the $3.01 per pack State and Federal excise taxes I pay, and the $0.18 per pack State sales tax charged on that same excise tax. The exorbitant tax rate increases over the past 25 years were meant to cover the expected health care liability that smokers would present in the future. The most recent tax increase for many across the country was to pay for health care costs (SCHIP) of children from families without health insurance; that increase was $0.62 per pack, and began in 2009. Believe me when I say, “I already pay through the nose for my bad habit!” There are many of you driving SUV’s excessive distances: to work, and
    carting your kids to their soccer games, etc. I haven’t noticed anyone asking you to pay a premium for the healthcare of the poor children living in proximity to those refineries; after all there couldn’t be many complications from sucking down Benzene and other noxious fumes!

    There are those that would say, “We’re talking about private insurance, and not Medicare or Medicaid.” Thank you for raising that point!  I am a single male (never married) without ever having had children, and the premium paid by my employer along with my weekly co-pay is the same for everyone else! If those of you out there think I should pay for my smoking habit, why should I pay for your spouse and kids – especially now that they’re covered until they turn 26; that was your choice! Let’s continue, why should I be asked to pay for your melanoma? You were the one going to the tanning booth, so that you would look good at the beach. Was it my choice to go skiing, when you tore the ACL tendon in your knee, or the broken bones incurred when you fell while rock climbing? I would have to say these are risky behaviors too. It’s very easy to look down on others, if you ignore the slippery slope you’re on!

  • SamEw

    1. This whole conversation does beg for an episode of the Office where Michael is checking up on Phyliss and Stanley at their homes to make sure their exercising. 

    2.That said as a young generally healthy person who the government wants to make pay out of pocket for an insurance that will likely be close to worthless I’m glad to see corporations becoming more efficient in the way they disperse health care.

    • Anne Padddock

      The problem Sam is that in a system where we all benefit, we all have to pay into. In any healthcare system, the young and healthy subsidize the elderly and sick and the important thing to remember is that we all will be elderly and sick and we can’t just pay into the system then.  

      Statistically, the young don’t get as sick but when they get seriously ill, the healthcare costs are astronomical and of course they want treatment, which in a civilized country they should get.  We don’t, as a country, say to the 25-year old leukemia patient that he/she can’t get treatment because he/she decided to take a chance and not buy health insurance. In many families, they opt not to buy health insurance (and there are those that can afford it but elect not to) but when a child gets seriously ill, again the taxpayers pick up the tab.  

      Health insurance needs to be a priority for everyone in this country because we live in a country where we will treat the sick. I’ll say it again..in a system where we all benefit from, we all have to pay into.  

      • SamEw

        This is all fair my point is that I don’t think it’s clear cut the poor will be hurt by the kinds of reforms to employer paid health care talked about in the radio program.

        • Anne Padddock

          You do make a really good point..

  • http://jason.karns.name jasonkarns

    This is what we get when employers are involved in an individual’s private transactions (health insurance). Thank you government for creating this mess by incentivizing employers to meddle by creating tax breaks!

    • Sy2502

      Think how much worse it would have been if we’d had single payer, socialized health care instead!

      • ThirdWayForward

        No, a single-payer system would be much better — it gives patients countervailing economic power. Where do you get your information? Health care costs would be considerably lower, with similar outcomes. Our private health insurers extract 10-20% of expenditures, with no contribution to the quality or delivery of the care provided. Look to Canada or Japan. 

        • Sy2502

          I get my information from having lived in a European country with socialized health care for 25 years, thank you for asking. The way it worked was that public doctors were so bad, the bureaucracy was so terrible, and the waiting lists were so long that everybody, including lower income people went to private care, paying out of their own pocket. And since there were no insurances to deal with, private care was perfectly affordable. Now that the countries are going down, the entire health care system is going down with them, hospitals are closing, services are severely curtailed, and yes, the government gets to tell people whether their case is urgent or not, whether they are too old to be worth getting care, and since governments buy medicines, there are places like Greece where medications can’t even be found any more. You want to talk about meddling in people’s medical business? You have no idea!

          • ThirdWayForward

            I agree that Greece is a basket case economically and politically, but neither we nor Germany nor France nor Canada nor Japan are Greece by any stretch of the imagination. That’s a transparently invalid right-wing meme, that we are fast becoming Greece.

            And I suppose that you’ve always had a secure job here in America that guarantees that you will have uninterrupted access to health care. Many of us haven’t. Many of us also have horror stories about getting health insurers to approve of medical procedures.

            The experience with our single payer system, Medicare, is very far from what you describe. Most seniors are happy with that system  – privatizing Medicare is an extremely unpopular idea.

            The CVS trial balloon could be the beginning of a wave of private health fascism. Judging by many of the attitudes here on this blog, plenty of people who have no concept whatsoever about being overweight or in ill-health are nevertheless ready to self-righteously stigmatize and penalize those whose bodies appear to them to be unhealthy. It’s a really nasty aspect of the American psyche.

            We do desperately need to deal with obesity, but we need to do it as a society, cooperatively, and in manners that treat people with dignity. Nobody likes being fat or unhealthy, so why regard these people as sinners and slackers?

            The Right always appeals to small-minded, selfish, me-first, motives that divide rather than unite us. A divided society cannot work effectively towards common goals, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for the greatest number of its people.

          • Sy2502

            I appreciate you trying to counteract my factual argument by accusing me of political ideology, but if you are incapable of having a reasonable discussion, let me know now and I’ll stop wasting my time with you. 

            The country I come from is not Greece, and you don’t need to be in Greece to see the dramatic problems with socialized health care. Since I have the advantage of having tried both socialized and private health care, I have the advantage of a more complete and balanced perspective. Your supposition about my employment history is mistaken (as most assumptions about complete strangers are bound to be). I have been without health coverage. 
            Also your attribution of a negative view of certain problems, like obesity to the Right is as mistaken as it could be. It is the Left, in fact, that is always pushing for government meddling in people’s lives. Last I checked, Mayor Bloomberg is not a Republican. Both parties love to meddle in people’s personal lives, but in this specific instance, the Left seems more keen in socially engineering health in the population through legislation than the Right is. 

          • ThirdWayForward

            Greece was the only specific country mentioned, and there is a great deal of crazy-talk on the right about the US becoming Greece. I apologize if I read too much into your lines.

            I do agree with you that health fascism is coming as much from the left (“for their own good”) as it is from the right. But the rhetoric of not wanting to pay for the perceived sins of other people is a mainstay of conservative thinking.   So is the stigmatization of those who are perceived as sinners and/or slackers. Romney’s 47% remark was very telling and it was no aberration. This is how radical conservatives really think of themselves and everyone else.And you haven’t addressed my counterargument about Medicare. I for one derive a great deal of comfort that I will have access to healthcare once I turn 65. Very few people want to get rid of that system and throw seniors back into our private health care insurance system. Ditto for Social Security and the abolition of the terror of complete impoverishment when we grow too old to work. These social insurance programs improve the quality of our lives.

          • Sy2502

            I am not a senior citizen yet, and don’t have enough familiarity with Medicare to express an informed opinion, that’s why I didn’t address that part of your post. I am sorry this gave you the impression I was evading your question. In general I believe a safety net is needed and a positive thing, but a safety net by definition is something you need only in extreme cases, and it should be a temporary arrangement. I don’t think I should be paying for rich senior people’s health when they can afford to pay for it themselves for example. 

          • ThirdWayForward

            The columns are getting narrowerand narrower.

            It’s fine, re Medicare; I was just pointing out that there are  strong positive arguments and evidencefor the viability of single-payer systems here in the US. 

            Medicareis not welfare — we pay for it throughout our working lives, so why means-test it like  it is welfare? We don’t means-test for public schooling or libraries or fire or police.

          • Anne Padddock

            On the contrary, I don’t think a generalized statement concluding that “plenty of people who have no concept whatsoever about being overweight or in ill health are nevertheless ready to self-righteously stigmatize and penalize those whose bodies appear to them to be unhealthy” is accurate and is in fact, quite decisive, judgmental, and absent of knowledge of the writers not to mention that those that cost the healthcare system more are reluctant to take personal responsibility. 

            I don’t know anyone – and I mean anyone – who hasn’t struggled with weight or illness and has what insurance companies would call at least one pre-existing condition.  What many people on this blog are saying is this:  take personal responsibility for yourself and stop relying on other people to subsidize your healthcare costs.

        • Anne Padddock

          Switzerland, too. A model system.

    • Anne Padddock

      You’re absolutely right. Employers should not be involved in health insurance (thank you Congress for creating this fringe benefit after WWII). Health insurance should be purchased by all on the private market  (as in almost every industrialized country) so that personal health is between the patient, the medical provider, and the health insurer.  Those of us who purchase health insurance outside of employment have to provide the information and access to doctors medical records in order to have a policy priced….so those who are getting their health insurance through their company shouldn’t balk at what the rest of us have been doing for years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/suzanne.sheldon.50 Suzanne Sheldon

    Frito Lay does not shove their empty calorie products down your throats! What’s wrong with having people take responsibility for their lifestyle choices? When we eat a potato chip or a pint of ice cream, that is a choice we make. I generally eat a healthy diet, but I do have a terrible weakness for desserts. I rarely bring anything sweet into my home, because I know I can’t exercise will power over any extended period of time. If I have cookies in the cabinet, I will eat them until their gone. I blame no one, but myself, for the choice I make to eat the wrong things. To avoid this, I treat myself away from home and do not bring any extras back with me to splurge on later. I also force myself to hike up the road or hop on my bike nearly every single day for 30 – 90 minutes to avoid putting on weight. 
    In our youth, my husband and I ate a very healthy diet when we were quite poor. I bought lots of beans and rice and didn’t buy desserts, cookies and chips. It’s called self discipline, and until we all start taking responsibility for our choices, nothing is going to change.
    When I lunch with my co-workers, I bring healthy leftovers or choose only the healthiest vegetables and grains offered at work. I never ever criticize what anyone else eats, but have to sit there and listen to the remarks of disgust from many at the table, and snickers from the others. Occasionally we go out to dinner as a group and I may order a salad and fries. One worker asked, why I even bothered to go out to dinner if that’s what I would get? Meanwhile, she gets the fattest meal available, a huge dessert, and of course, starts it off with a huge sugary mixed drink, topped off with whipped cream. 
    It’s a question of making choices and working with the self discipline you have, making adjustments to compensate for any lack of it. We also need to keep informed of what’s good for you. Young people are lucky that it’s quite easy to do anymore, you can’t turn on the TV or pick up a magazine without learning about nutrition.        
    I don’t understand why Tom, and others, feel the need to defend people that are unhealthy due to their diet. I am totally sympathetic to anyone with low will power or a food or alcohol addiction. I have to work hard to be healthy, just because I have low will power, doesn’t mean I should throw my hands up and blame the bakery because they make their brownies smell and look so good. 
    Apparently, no one is going to be penalized because their cholesterol is high. They will be if they don’t take steps to bring it down. That seems fair enough.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1207623712 Amy Cohen

    I found this discussion alarming.  Fundamentally, we are talking about addiction.  I doubt very much that there is anyone who is not already doing the very best that they can.  This ‘penalty’ is disrespectful and unfair and will disproportionately affect the poor.  Human behavior is very complex and efforts to control addiction always makes things worse. I don’t mind the underlying principal of covering the costs through penalties, but that burden should NOT fall on the individual, but where it rightly belongs, the FOOD INDUSTRY.  Tax unhealthy foods and subsidize fruits / vegetables (organic ones at that!).

    • SamEw

      1. BS…I went on a bike ride recently with a friend, a guy with a professional in his 20′s, maybe three miles on a flat surface he could barely breathe afterwards and he’s either just barely or not obese. When I asked him after the ride if he ever even walked other than to and from his car he admitted he did not and he’s not that different than a lot of people I know.
       
      2. I don’t know why it’s a given this would disproportionately  affect the poor. The only people affected would be people receiving employee benefits to begin with. Also, it’s true that in terms of available diet and education poor people are often disadvantaged but if you’re a waitress or a construction worker you burn a lot more calories while working than if you’re an engineer or accountant.   

      3. I barely made more than the poverty threshold last year and as someone paying out of pocket for insurance under the Obama plan this would be an advantage to me.

      • http://www.facebook.com/steve.kanicki Steve Kanicki

        BS Yourself… One example hardly proves your point. Obesity follows poverty. Look it up. $12 dollars for a salad, or 10 cheeseburgers for a nickel. Ok I’m exaggerating, but the point is, it costs more to eat healthy.

        In addition, poor people don’t have the same access to safe neighborhoods for walking, gym memberships, child care, etc. Often times, they are working 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet, and there is a difference between work and exercise. One burns calories and gives you energy. The other drains you and leaves you defeated.

        • SamEw

          Please do me a favor and read what I wrote if you’re going to reply.

          1. The BS part was the claim that people are already definitely doing what they can. Also, being poor isn’t neccessarily the same as being in poverty and I admit that Anne has a point as to food pricing as do you about neighborhoods.

          2. The above doesn’t change the fact though that the people being affected by the changes are those receiving employer paid health insurance and thus are not especially likely to be poor let alone in poverty. Furthermore, people like myself who are poor and have to pay out pocket for insurance benefit from employer paid health insurance being more efficient to the extent it reduces overall health care prices or makes health care a better purchase.

          • http://www.facebook.com/steve.kanicki Steve Kanicki

            Well, I did read what you wrote before I replied. I just re-read it, and I stil think its BS. I guess we’ll agree to disagree.

          • SamEw

            You’re right it is BS people getting employee paid health insurance make more than those who don’t.(Rolls eyes)

          • Anne Padddock

            Have to agree with you….

        • Anne Padddock

          Yesterday, I was at Stop and Shop and a pound of whole wheat pasta was $1.49, a fresh head of broccoli was $1.19, a 16 ounce bag of fresh spinach was $1.99, a container of sweet grape tomatoes was $1.99  and cans of lentils and beans (which are high in protein) were both under $1.00. Those ingredients make a nutritious, healthy meal for a family and are significantly cheaper than buying meats, frozen dinners, bags of chips and carbonated drinks full of fat, sodium, sugar, chemicals, preservatives, and additives. 

          Gym memberships are not needed to exercise. We have town, city, county, state, and national parks throughout our country which are great places to walk, run, ride a bike, etc.

          • LizJMD

            agreed.  My daughter and lots of others in our hood run up and down the 130 steps!!!  No gym.  Turned a grungy  trudge frequented by the pidgeons into a trendy spot for the fit and aspiring fit to work out with other folks from the hood.  
            And yes, one could live on lentils and veggies.  i give these recipes to my patients!

          • http://www.facebook.com/steve.kanicki Steve Kanicki

            You’re making it sound like everyone has 7+ dollars to spend on  dinner. They don’t. The fact remains, per calorie, fast food is less expensive than healthy food. In addition, how do these people get to these parks if they don’t live next to them? Transportation is an additional cost that will stretch an already strained budget.

            At any rate, for arguments sake, lets say you’re right. Never mind the food costs, or a persons genetic makeup, we all can do something to live healthier lives. My objection is that corporate america has no right to stick their nose into people’s personal affairs in regards to how they eat or, how they choose to spend their time outside of work. What’s next? Should they have the right to tell us where to live, who to spend our time with, or what activities we our allowed to engage in? All of those things could drive up the cost of healthcare.

            I’m a marathon runner, but I will defend anyone’s right to eat as they please and live as they please.

          • SamEw

            Why is employer paid health insurance a right?

          • Anne Padddock

            No, I’m not making it sound like “everyone has $7 to spend on dinner” – if you read the sentence..it’s a $7 dinner for a family which is significantly cheaper than feeding a family fast food or frozen dinners with soft drinks.On the contrary, you’re making it sound like people can only eat fast food because it’s cheap. That’s simply not true. 

            Walking is an amazing exercise and the approximate 70% of the US population that is overweight or obese do live on or near streets with sidewalks or live in cities with sidewalks where they can walk or get to a park. In addition, the YMCA has an amazing subsidized program where gym membership is based on income thus providing thousands and thousands of people access to their programs. You say you’re a marathon runner….As a marathon runner who probably doesn’t rely on gyms, you should know that most forms of exercise don’t require a gym membership. You will be hard pressed to find a town or county in this country that doesn’t have a park, sidewalk, or a safe place to walk, run, bicycle ride, etc.

            I agree with you theoretically that corporations should not be involved in our healthcare and that healthcare should be between the patient, the medical provider and the insurance company. But, we don’t live in a society that separates employment from health insurance. The government (Congress to be specific) put the burden on corporations 70 years ago when they created the employer provided health insurance in this country. The  employees right now are upset because they are being asked to do what the rest of us that buy health insurance outside of work HAVE BEEN DOING FOR YEARS. Our policies are priced based on actuary tables based on height, weight, and medical history – all of this has to be disclosed to buy health insurance on the private market.

            I also agree that people should be allowed choices but with choices comes personal responsibility. Everyone will make bad food choices at times – it’s part of life – but for those who chronically make bad choices, statistically, they will have health problems and other people shouldn’t have to pay for their higher healthcare costs.  

            As I previously mentioned, the young and healthy already subsidize the sick (as we should) but the young and healthy shouldn’t also subsidize the people that make themselves sick through smoking and obesity.  So if you want to eat at fast food everyday and smoke cigarettes, go for it but don’t complain when you are required to pay a higher health insurance cost because the rest of us don’t want to subsidize you.

            It’s not a what’s next..it’s a take responsibility for yourself because the rest of us shouldn’t have to.

          • http://www.facebook.com/tinamarie.mercer Tina Marie Mercer

            As someone who has traveled to other countries I can tell you that our food is not as healthy as the food I see in other countries. How can we expect those who have no money, or are living off of GMO foods to be healthy? I see it a lot. Have you seen school lunches lately? They are horrible. Barely meeting the requirements of healthy food. Not fresh, full of fats, full of breads and not enough proteins and vegetables. Poor children eat poor foods. It is proven. Not all families who are on things like foods stamps etc have access to good healthy choices of food. Take small towns for instance. If you are too poor to have a vehicle to go to a good store like you obviously have you are going to find a difference in healthy foods. I know exactly what Steve is saying. I was in the same place as the people he is talking about. It takes a lot of effort and hard work and someone willing to take the time to educate other people who are at a disadvantage to learn these behaviors that keep them healthy. Thankfully I had help. I didn’t get it from my home life. I got it from friends when I went to college as a single mother. When your babies are hungry and haven’t had much and the dollar menu is cheaper than the amount of food you can get cause of your location you take the amount that gives the most bang for it’s buck to make their bellies full! It is a sad truth and we need to do more than complain about the problem but take the time to help educate those who don’t realize their choices and what they can do.

          • http://www.facebook.com/steve.kanicki Steve Kanicki

            Thank you Tina. Your comments show me that there are compassionate people out there who can see beyond there own situation and have empathy for others who are less fortunate.

          • Anne Padddock

            So those that are complaining about paying higher rates aren’t thinking “beyond their own situation…”

          • Anne Padddock

            Effort and hard work..yes, it does take that.

          • Anne Padddock

            Grocery stores – Stop and Shop, Food Lion, Piggly Wiggly, Publix, Winn Dixie, Walmart, …these are the grocery stores that Americans outside of cities shop in. All have weekly specials, fresh fruit and vegetables and alternative choices. The goal isn’t to get the most fat and calories per dollar..the goal is to get the most nutrition. When babies are hungry, a box of oatmeal is infinitely more nutritious and cheaper than a box of sugared cereal..in fact, it’s about 1/3 of the cost. There is something more at work here than lack of knowledge.

          • http://www.facebook.com/steve.kanicki Steve Kanicki

            Yes, I do my running on the sidewalks, and I don’t rely on gyms. But that’s because I live in a safe-middle class neighborhood. I sure as hell wouldn’t be running —for exercise—if I lived in some of the poorer, unsafe neighborhoods in this country. Just because I have been blessed with certain advantages, doesn’t mean everyone has.

            Also, my original point still stands. $7+ for dinner is still a lot even for a family. Obesity follows poverty in this country. It is cheaper to eat unhealthy than it is to eat healthy. This is a fact!

            Finally, this country is supposed to value freedom over money. If you, and I and everyone else has to pay more to allow people to eat and live as they please, than so be it! Otherwise, the U.S. is just full of talk with very little substance, and I refuse to believe that.

          • Anne Padddock

            Read the post. I never said “everyone.” Two thirds of this country is overweight or obese. Two thirds of this country doesn’t live in poor unsafe neighborhoods. People can walk and go to parks. Point Two:  If people can spend $7 to feed a family at a fast food restaurant then they can afford to go to a grocery store and buy pasta, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruit for the same amount of money. If you go back and re-read what I wrote, the $7 included pasta, spinach, tomatoes, beans, and more.  Third, personal responsibility seems to never enter your line of thinking. It can’t be a “so be it” whether rates apply to auto insurance or health insurance. If people want to speed and risk their lives and others and get into accidents, they should be charged more for auto insurance and the same applies to health insurance. WITH FREEDOM OF CHOICE THERE IS PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY

          • Anne Padddock

            Newsflash:  all of us who are buying health insurance outside of employment are already paying rates based on risk factors. 

          • JGC

            I agree with Anne, the purchases are clearly for a family, not one person. Who eats a pound of whole wheat pasta at one sitting?

          • http://www.facebook.com/steve.kanicki Steve Kanicki

            My point was that $7 was more than some individuals or “families” have to spend on dinner, and that less-healthy food is generally less expensive than healthy food. The fact is obesity follows poverty in this country. 

            In addition her suggestion is short-cited and naive. Should families eat spaghetti everyday for dinner, lunch and breakfast? What about the day after that, and the next day? 

            Because of government subsidized foods, less-healthy foods are cheaper than healthy ones. This is a fact, and this the point I’m making.  

        • SamEw

          Also, FWIW the obesity rate in my home state of Michigan is 30%, the overweight rate is 40% and the poverty rate is 15%. So, obviously the only or primary factor causing obesity isn’t poverty. People can definitely do more to improve their health than they do.

    • Anne Padddock

      Fundamentally we are talking about personal responsibility. With personal choice comes personal responsibility. If people don’t buy junk food, the companies won’t sell it.

  • Anne Padddock

    The US is one of the only, if not the only country in the industrialized world that ties health insurance to employment, thanks to Congress who created fringe benefits in response to wage freezes during WWII. Health insurance should be available to everyone on the open market for several reasons:
    1.  Those of us who already purchase health insurance outside of employment have to complete applications and release doctor information because the policy is based on that information. Those that are overweight (and the US charts are very liberal), have high blood pressure, diabetes and other ailments will pay a higher rate because statistically they will cost more. Those who have health insurance through employment have no basis to complain. 

    2.  The young and healthy subsidize the sick in health insurance. To ask the young and healthy to also subsidize those that are making themselves sick is asking too much. It all goes back to PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Yes, the big companies and fast food chains make junk but if you don’t buy it, they won’t sell it. 

    3.  By offering health insurance through employment, companies are forced into a big brother role they shouldn’t be in. Health insurance and medical care should be between the patient, the medical providers, and the health insurance providers.

    4. People that smoke pay higher premiums to purchase health insurance outside of employment. People that get into car accidents and get speeding tickets are charged more for car insurance. An actuary table will show that people that are overweight and have a BMI above 25 have more health problems and higher healthcare costs. If these people want to live their life that way, they have that choice but those of us who fall within the guidelines (and the guidelines are very liberal) should not have to pay their higher healthcare costs. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    i heard of one airline that was charging by weight and wondered why it took so long

  • Alexandra Grabbe

    I listened to the show and found it really interesting.  I believe processed food is the problem (See the documentary Food, Inc.).  High Fructose Corn Syrup is in everything.  Avoid it.  Also, endocrine disruptors mess up signals between our hormones.  We need to get tough with Big Ag and the chemical industry.  Get Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013.  Please do a future show on how endocrine disruptors work, as the concept is hard for us un-scientific types to understand, and what the link is to obesity.    

  • LizJMD

    Those who are obligated to pay for health care have an incentive to promote health.  It is sobering that private businesses are taking the lead in promoting health–perhaps for the wrong reasons–but nevertheless creating incentives for health.  Good government should provide incentives for health. Further, health care–considered an entitlement–should not be equated with health.  The determinants of health include personal choices as well as many political choices such as subsidies to agriculture (corn, high fructose corn syrup), lax oversight of food safety, big tobacco, OSHA standards, clean water and air standards, antibiotics in agriculture, the uncertain risks of genetically modified food and on and on.  Yes, financial incentives should be aligned with broad social good–like health.    But maybe private industry will take the lead since government serves many of its lobbying constituents at the expense of the health of the general public.  Yes obesity has a lot to do with personal choice, but corn subsidies may tip the scales toward unhealthy choices at the cash register.  Alas, I remain a reluctant capitalist.

  • LizJMD

    Maybe if government paid for all health care, there would be greater scrutiny of the health costs of its various social policies.  For example, food stamps should not be valid for foods of no nutritional value, like soda, potato chips and cakes.  The industries that make the junk food would object.  Unhealthy behaviors might become the exception rather than the rule if such behaviors stopped making short term economic sense

    • ExcellentNews

      Noooooo !!! That would be socialist communism !!! God forbids us from looking into how junk-food and insurance corporations make money and pay hundred-million bonuses to their executives (Nordquist 18:85, Saint Boehner 4:78).

      • http://www.facebook.com/bob.park.733 Xiao Lai

        Just consider one question: what if god didn’t exist? Besides from this question, you CANNOT decide what the whole country will do based off of god, since not everybody is Christian. How would you feel if a Muslim said, “Muslim prayers must be said by everybody everyday.”?

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