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January 21 2016

Employee Wellness Programs: Pros And Cons

One News Now
Hadley Heath

People who work in places with employee wellness programs may want to read the fine print when it comes to participation.

A recent article in Bloomberg highlights a case where an employee of Flambeau, a Wisconsin plastics-maker, chose not to take his work-sponsored health assessment and biometric screening. As a result, the worker lost his employer-sponsored health insurance. While it may be unsettling to some in the workplace, several federal courts rule this type of action is legal. At least one court ruled in favor of Flambeau. 

Hadley Heath Manning, director of health policy at the Independent Women's Forum, tells OneNewsNow that the idea behind employee wellness programs is good – in theory.

"Basically, these programs aim to encourage workers to lead healthier lifestyles by discouraging activities, such as smoking, and encouraging other activities, such as regular exercise," says Manning. "But practically, these programs sometimes run into problems."

Like health insurance, Manning says wellness programs shouldn't be one-size-fits-all. "Health is very individual, so it's hard to subject everyone to the same standards," she says. 

Regardless, Manning does believe that wellness programs are becoming more popular. "ObamaCare limits health insurance companies and the various ways they might reduce costs. In fact, premiums have been going up for all plans, including employer-sponsored plans," she explains.

So if there is any way for employers to save money on their health insurance premiums, they will likely take advantage. Meanwhile, if workers don't participate, those workers may face serious financial consequences.

"That's why some of them argue that these programs are more coercive than they are mandatory," says Manning. "Any worker whose employer revokes health insurance coverage must go to the individual market, or an ObamaCare exchange, where premiums are sky-high for unsubsidized customers."

She does point out that people who go without insurance will most likely be subject to a tax penalty.

The bottom line, according to Manning, is that this illustrates how flawed the employer-centric health insurance system is, while serving as another argument for moving away from a system that favors employer-based insurance plans.

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Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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