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New threat-led fitness craze hits U.S.

| March 26, 2013

U.S. employers are increasingly trying to lower healthcare costs by using incentives to persuade workers to change their habits, according to a story by Katie Thomas for the New York Times, quoting the results of a new survey.

The survey of 800 large and midsize employers, conducted by the human resources consulting firm Aon Hewitt, found that 79 percent of companies used rewards such as lower insurance premiums to try to influence their employees’ decisions.

But increasingly, the survey found, employers were taking the programs a step further by penalizing employees who did not make what their employers see as healthy choices.

Reportedly, CVS Caremark employees will soon have to report their weight, blood sugar and cholesterol or pay an annual penalty of $600. Other companies have similar policies in place.

While 56 percent of the companies using incentives required employees to sign up for programs such as health coaching or completing a questionnaire, 24 percent tied their incentives to progress on measures such as a person’s blood pressure or body mass index.

However, programs that seek to impose consequences on workers by charging them higher premiums, or requiring them to pay a surcharge for failing to take steps to lose weight or quit smoking have come under criticism from those who argue that the policies are invasive and can punish people for health problems that are not always easy to fix.

Although some employees have sought to challenge such policies in federal court, arguing that they are a violation of privacy or of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the cases have so far failed to gain traction.

Category: Breaking News

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