quick comment: employer-based health programs

On December 14, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article about employer-based health and wellness programs.

The article didn’t spark any outrage. But the letters in response? Here’s an excerpt from one published today:

But the 400-pound gorilla in the room has evolved into a 400-pound coworker, and those are hard to ignore. Rather than being an invasion of civil liberties, these programs try to make the unduly burdensome costs of health care more fair for both the public and the companies that employ them.

And here’s one from Tuesday:

When the people complaining about this injustice wind up in an intensive care unit or hospice as a result of their own lifestyle choices, they are pirating resources from workers who take better care of themselves but wind up in these places anyhow.

There haven’t been any responses from the other side. So I wrote one, and sent it in today:

I thought I could hold my tongue regarding Maura Lerner’s December 14 story about employers punishing employees for “bad” health behavior. But I’ve been dismayed by the tone of the letters you’ve published in support of these programs.

Yesterday, Sam Boeser wrote: “… these programs try to make the unduly burdensome cost of health care more fair for both the public and the companies that employ them.”

If fairness (rather than an attempt to eliminate behavior society sees as deviant) were truly the issue, I would expect to see rewards for folks who go to church, own pets, and are married – all variables that lead to longer, healthier lives – and punishments for folks who increase their health risks by, say, working the night shift, drinking coffee or commuting by car.

Here’s hoping they publish it!


6 responses to “quick comment: employer-based health programs

  1. You worded that just perfectly. Thank you so much for that response and for putting it so much better than I would have.

  2. *Great* response! You definitely worded it better than I ever could have, just as the previous commenter said about herself. I am so incredibly tired of the “if a fat person has a health problem, it’s their own fault” line. As someone who weighs close to 400 pounds, I can only imagine the thoughts my co-workers will have (if I ever find a job, that is, heh).

  3. You said that very well. Maybe they should add in the people who engage in risky behaviors like drinking and driving, participate in body-contact sports, and anything else that can result in physical injuries. My son is of average size (well, he’s tall) and broke his knee on a 3-wheel ATV. His knee surgery and doctor bills cost upwards of $50,000. But that’s ok, because he’s not fat, right? Geez louize.

  4. The most important factors in health outcomes are wealth and social class, along with genetics and age.

    All of the claims of good behavior or eating some special way as having much to do with things are led by ignorance, prejudice and greed of vested interests. What was frightening to read were the young medical professionals who have been brainwashed in preventive public health and incapable of critically examining the science. And, the company executives issuing these wellness programs and the public going along are, sadly, even less so.

  5. If employers (and insurance companies) would stop putting the focus on punishing fat people and assuming they’re all unhealthy when it comes to these wellness plans, we’d be a lot better off. Health and wellness does not mean thin at all costs.

  6. Big business is only worried about losing money, not passing along savings for so-called good behavior. Some health plans are trying to charge others a higher premium for smokers. Similarly, large cities are trying to force restaurants to ban trans fats. Which is ridiculous.

    My employer recently started a health promotion program to encourage “better habits.” It’s really one of a number of insurance cost-measuring programs meant to lower rates. Although it has it’s benefits I don’t think they really care what people do. Blue Cross/Shield require it or the company will face penalties. What a racket!

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