Employees’ unhealthy habits have growing effect on their insurance premiums

The story below concludes that “Employees now contribute 42 percent more for health care than they did five years ago.”   Just because employees are stuck paying higher healthcare bills doesn’t necessarily mean they are causing costs to increase.

If employees were driving up healthcare costs, then using financial penalties to force them to undergo intrusive health screenings and join wellness programs might make sense.

But employees aren’t causing the high costs of healthcare in the US.  Time magazine concluded that healthcare corporations, such as hospitals and the pharmaceutical industry, outpatient procedures, and lobbying costs are the main culprits.

Time magazine’s issue titled “Bitter Pill, why medical bills are killing us” identified several factors in high US healthcare costs:

The article below quotes the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), a lobbying group with assests of $18,772,047 in 2011. The NBGH blames employees for rising healthcare costs, instead of its many healthcare corporation members.

  • -URL for NBGH members: https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/join/members.cfm
  • -Blaming employees allows the NBGH to defend using coercive, intrusive wellness programs even for employees with complex, hard-to-manage illnesses, that wellness programs don’t help:
    • -See “Wellness Incentives In The Workplace: Cost Savings Through Cost Shifting To Unhealthy Workers” By Jill R. Horwitz, Brenna D. Kelly, and John E. DiNardo. Health Affairs, 32, no.3 (2013):468-476; doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.0683; http://content.healthaffairs.org/content/32/3/468.full.html

Meanwhile screening companies, labs, and wellness programs collect sensitive employee health information and control its use, disclosure, and sale.

  • -There is no ‘chain of custody’ for health data so employees have no way to know who sees their health information.
  • -The US has NO data map to track the thousands of hidden companies that collect, use, or sell Americans’ personal health information.
  • -Corporations that collect employees’ health information treat it as a corporate asset, not as sensitive personal information that patients have strong rights to control.
  • -So it’s impossible to verify whether the NBGH lobbyist’s statement that “few employers would risk intentionally misusing such information” is true or false.

Blaming people who are sick for the high costs of their medical care instead of the corporations that overcharge is a really neat trick. It also provides a rationale for coercing employees to enter wellness programs and violating their rights to health privacy.

Unfortunately, simply “blaming the victims” won’t solve escalating healthcare costs.  We have to look broadly at individuals, the entire healthcare system, the food-chain, and larger cultural factors to identify and deal with all the real causes.

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