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More Employers Penalizing Workers for Personal Health Habits

Although the evidence on whether the programs work is at best mixed, companies are “increasingly trying to lower health care costs by using incentives to persuade workers to make better lifestyle choices,” according to the New York Times. In practice, this means that less-healthy employees are charged more for health care—which, as the article points out, may worsen the problem that such incentives purport to address: “Programs that reward people for good behavior may be singling out those who were already practicing healthy habits, while those that penalize workers for bad behavior may be unfairly singling out the very people who need lower health care costs.”

CVS’s employee health care incentive program is currently getting the most attention, but they are far from alone. Clearly, better health is a worthy goal, but that must be balanced against employee privacy.

The Times mentions that litigation against the programs has “so far failed to gain traction.” NBC News expands on legal issues at hand:

Among the complications is a possible conflict between the American Disabilities Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. While HIPAA specifically allows companies to offer financial incentives to employees who take part in wellness programs, the ADA states that any questions about an employee’s health must be voluntary (and not coerced with an incentive of anything more valuable than a T-shirt or hat.)

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which administers the ADA, has declined to clarify its stance on the apparent conflict, leaving some companies to wonder if there is a legal risk [….]

The Harman Firm will continue to follow this issues as it unfolds. Contact us today with any questions about employment law.

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