2/23/07

When your boss becomes your health care provider...

So I'm reading Business Week this week (as I'm prone to do - don't ask, I read weird mags at work. Have I mentioned I LOVE my job? :P), and this week the cover story is about huge American company that is being sued for the changes it implemented to it's health care plans. They went around poking at people's physicals and contacting each one of them, pretty much prescribing things to them that they needed to do in order to be "healthy". An example was used where a man's results were pored over, he was contacted and told he had high cholesterol and diet and exercise were in order. Little did they know this man was a triathelte and probably in the best shape for a man of 48-years, it was just his love of steak that sent his bad cholesterol levels soaring. The cover image was a man who was actually fired and was suing the company for being dismissed for not quitting his smoking habit when the company TOLD him to. But then there's a happier story, a man who has lost 137lbs thanks to the "wellness" program. These are employees of Scotts Miracle Gro Co., a billion dollar lawn care company. To delve a little deeper, each employee has to take health-risk assessments or pay $40 in health premiums. The information compiled from these assessments then gets analyzed and cross-checked against family histories and insurance claims where there risk levels are then identified. Then they are assigned a health coach who draws up an action plan and if they refuse THAT, they have to pay ANOTHER $67. I believe I pay $22 for Weight Watchers on-line, just for perspective here.... If that's not bad enough, they then start adding peer pressure and competition into the mix. Gym rats are rewarded for efforts with special pins they have to display on their ID lanyards. They offer up prizes, trips, rewards - all with a clear message, as the benefits chief is quoted as saying, "You're not trying to do something to make yourself better, then you're going to pay more." I have some issues with this. I find health issues to be a very personal matter, especially my weight. I wouldn't want a bunch of people collecting data on me, analyzing my family history and cross-checking claims to find out what kind of risk I am to coach me to wellness. I have a hard enough time just submitting my bills for my dentist to my company let alone any medication I take! HECK! I was afraid to try WW meetings for fear of public weigh-ins!!! To me, this is intrusive to the MAX! Sure, your health and well-being can impact a business day, but unless it's impacting their work in a justifiable way (they're missing work, productivity is down, can't function in the capacity they once could), I really don't think that they are doing much good. I think that it could hurt morale more than it could improve well being. I'm VERY interested to see how the lawsuit plays out for the man who was fired over being a smoker. I don't see how his addiction impacted their business in any way shape or form and it was their wellness program taken a little bit too far. Who's wellness is it really improving?

11 comments:

Angie All The Way said...

Holy Crap man! It sounds suspiciously familiar to a huge science experiment if you ask me. Someone is using this data for something.

Mandy said...

Wow - that is awful! doesn't that infringe bigtime on privacy acts and things like that???????? That's horrible. Even if I was a marathon runner and in perfect health, I would quit a job like that because I would never support an employer that thought it was okay to do that. How is it any of their goddamn business???? I'm pissed off!!!

~♥ Amanda ♥~ said...

that's crazy that they can even do that! i'd be interested to see how the law suit plays out too.

Green Girl said...

hm... I'm guessing money is involved here - healthy people = the company has to spend less money on claims, etc. I'm glad, though, nobody's looking over my shoulder when I eat my lunch, or go to the gym (metaphorically speaking) :)

NattyMcGoo said...

That scares me. If they started doing that in Canada, I'd be fired for sure. You know, being obese and all. However, I do like the idea of having a workplace where you can workout and there are programs to help you feel better which in turn makes you work better. But that should only be voluntary, not forced. It's like fat camp at work. A little humiliating.

Have you guys heard about the Google headquarters? It's the best place to work in the world. They have daycares, gyms, trainers, doctors, dentists, cafetrias filled with all the food you can ever imagine (all for free) including a candy section filled with junk (maybe not so good). Work hours are whatever you want to make them so if you prefer to work over night, you can. Amazing! Check this out: http://www.time.com/time/photoessays/2006/inside_google/

marie said...

green girl - that wouldn't fly with me. i claim MORE now than i did before when i was bigger.

btw, the program costs them $4 mill to run and the article ends with the li'l tidbit that scott's stock is up 58 per cent since the wellness program was put in place... nice, eh? :)

Pegger said...

I just needed to comment on your before/after photos, and wasn't sure where to put it.

You've done an incredible job and look amazing!

I'm going to have to keep tabs on your blog :)

Lynn said...

OMG, that is horrible. It's nobodys business but your own (and maybe family) about your medical/health history and conditions.

I would be pissed in a huge way.

Shirls said...

I've read this a few times today and I really don't know what my final thoughts are on it. I can see both sides of this one. I work for a company that supports and prompts healthy living. They give me money every year for wellness programs, (I pay WW with mine) and they have an in house gym and encourage all employees to use it. Just this week we had a health and wellness fair and I love all of these perks and use them to the fullest and yet at the same time I would hate to be pushed to do it or else...I'm stumped on this one.

Pam, the belly dancing queen said...

I don't think the companies are totally off base here. I don't think they should be able to get THAT much info on you but if your health problems are impacting your job performance, that's different. It does put people in a very difficult position though. It sounds like it's either conform or quit. Let's face it, in the end the company is going to do what's best for THEM.

marie said...

Shirls, first off you're so lucky to have a company that gives you so much and fosters a healthy living.

I think there's a HUGE difference between companies who encourage healthy living by giving money to employees for fitness programs, like yours, and this "wellness program" @ scott's that collects data on every employee, categorized them based on risk, sought them out to coach them and fired employees that didn't toe the line.

it just made me think that they were trying to build a perfect work force and weed the imperfects out for their own wellness, not the people's own benefit.

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