Healthy lifestyle can pay off
By Luis Fábregas
Published: Friday, March 29, 2013, 10:07 p.m.
The shelves in my neighborhood's CVS drug store were jammed this week with colorful Easter candy — chocolate bunnies, peanut butter eggs, marshmallow Peeps, and even orange jelly beans in carrot-shaped plastic bags.
You would never know it from the displays, but CVS Caremark is the same company that soon will require its employees to report their weight, blood sugar and cholesterol — or be forced to pay about $600 more a year in health insurance premiums.
CVS says it wants to “help our employees to be as healthy as they can be,” and emphasized the workers' health information goes to a third party and no one at the company will ever see it. In other words, no one will be penalized if they're overweight or have high cholesterol. The higher insurance premiums will be imposed on those who simply choose not to participate.
That seems fair enough. In fact, this type of policy isn't exactly new. Employers in the past few years have been trying to lower ever-increasing health care costs. Insurance premiums go up at least 5 percent every year, and somebody has to pay. Some large employers have tried all sorts of ways to curb costs. Wal-Mart, for instance, requires employees who smoke to pay higher insurance premiums.
The majority of employers, however, encourage healthy lifestyles not with penalties but incentives. Some give bonuses to employees who get a physical or take stop-smoking classes. The thinking is that healthy employees will cost the company less because they will not get as sick. The not-so-healthy ones? The more they use up health care services, the more they contribute to those ballooning premiums. We all pay for it, whether we're healthy or not.
When I stopped in CVS, I spoke with a worker who wasn't too happy about having to submit personal information to her employer. She laughed as she told me CVS presumably knows everything about her because she fills her prescriptions at the store. She said she couldn't afford a penalty for non-participation, yet agreed that a nudge to stay healthy isn't such a bad idea.
The irony is that some of the companies pushing these programs are not exactly what you'd consider a paradise of healthy lifestyles. If Wal-Mart is so concerned about smoking that it penalizes its workers, will it ever stop selling cigarettes? And will you ever walk into CVS and see shelf after shelf of fresh fruit in place of candy and potato chips?
Employers aren't entirely off base in promoting healthy lifestyles. Highmark Inc., the region's dominant insurer, gives employees access to a wellness program that includes a fitness center at Penn Avenue Place, Downtown. Highmark says that for every dollar it spends on the wellness program, it's been able to save $1.65 in health care costs.
Hard to argue with that, even if some people complain that they don't want their employer telling them what they can and cannot eat. I don't want that either. But what's wrong with anyone encouraging you to keep an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol?
After all, if you choose to eat that bacon double cheeseburger and end up with clogged arteries and triple bypass surgery, why should everyone have to pay for it with higher premiums?
Luis Fábregas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7998 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- Analysis: Steelers could fill needs with free agents while not spending big bucks
- Steelers to release LaMarr Woodley; Taylor restructures contract
- Crosby lifts Penguins over Capitals in last game of road trip
- Pittsburgh woman’s death at Drexel probed as possible meningitis
- Job cuts at AGH part of ‘strategic’ process
- Marcellus shale driller Noble Energy Inc. sinks roots into Pittsburgh
- Stage volunteer dies following collapse at Pine-Richland High School
- Top pitching prospect Taillon’s time with Pirates must wait a bit
- Penguins notebook: Heralded Russian Evgeny Kuznetsov debuts with Capitals
- Profit falls at American Eagle Outfitters on sales decline, charges
- Gas tax could factor into Pennsylvania gubernatorial race