Health screening penalties 'harmful'
Penn State's promise to fine employees $100 a month if they fail to get health screenings and complete a probing online health survey is unusual in an industry where incentives to take part in such programs are more common.
Some fear it could become the norm in a world in which employers seek ways to curb escalating health insurance costs.
“This stuff is harmful, not only because its premise of savings is really weak, but concern about the lack of health privacy causes millions of people to avoid early diagnosis and treatment for cancer, depression and STDs every year,” said Deborah Peel, an Austin-based physician who founded the nonprofit Patient Privacy Rights Foundation and advocates for tighter confidentiality of health data.
Penn State announced the new program, which it called “a deliberate and aggressive attempt to reduce” health care cost increases, last month.
Highmark Health Services, which administers Penn State's insurance program, said its data show such programs can cut costs.
A spokesman for Highmark Health Services said the company counted $1.3 million in savings during a four-year study of its corporate wellness program. Highmark spokesman Leilyn Perri said the company wellness program is similar to Penn State's, but it gives employees who participate $100 a month toward health insurance premiums.
WebMD Health Services, a division of WebMD, administers online health surveys for Penn State and many other large employers.
A company spokeswoman declined to answer specific questions about the Penn State program, instead citing a company policy statement.
The University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education offer employee wellness programs. None fines employees for not participating.
Pitt spokesman Ken Service said the university makes programs such as weight loss, exercise and nutrition counseling available on a voluntary basis. Pitt doesn't use penalties or incentives. Temple, which also uses WebMD, and the 14-university state system offer incentives to participate in wellness programs.
“Most of them may call it an incentive, but if you don't participate, you forfeit something,” said Al Lewis, president of Disease Management Purchasing Consortium International. “Whether you call it an incentive or not, it's just a different side of the same coin.”
A 2012 RAND Corp. study said that while 92 percent of large employers offer such programs, and most believe they reduce costs and improve health, there have been few rigorous studies of the programs.
“The wellness industry is selling more preventive medical care to a country whose insured population is drowning in preventive medical care,” Lewis said.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7996 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Animal activists targeting Vick at Steelers preseason game
- Pittsburgh poised to settle lawsuits from deadly flash flood in 2011
- Pittsburgh councilwoman introduces pair of bills to protect animals
- Risks don’t get any better as online dating prospers
- 2 Brentwood council members keep positions, council approves third resignation
- Bettis lab, 4 others receive new name
- Newsmaker: John Malone
- Board members bring business attitude to nonprofit August Wilson
- Animal welfare groups see opportunities in dialogue about Vick signing
- Shaler man charged with homicide, abuse of corpse in McKeesport woman’s death
- 3 from Allegheny County charged with Medicaid fraud