Insurers and Employers Reward
Should Insurers and Employers Reward Good Behavior and Punish Bad Ones?
Read the following article and respond to the questions at the end. (Should people who choose to take health risks be penalized? What do you think?)
Your opinion MUST be supported by the pros and cons that support your position and/or outside sources. Include citation (Title, website, author, date received)
You must respond to at least two classmates.
You Make the Call
Should Insurers and Employers Reward Healthy Behaviors and Punish Bad Ones?
There is no doubt that healthy lifestyles make for more vital individuals and more productive workers and citizens. When people increase their physical activity, they also bring economic benefits to themselves and society. The annual cost of inactivity is estimated at $24 to $76 billion and is a contributing factor in rapidly rising health care costs. Even if you are in good physical condition, some of the money you (or your parents) pay in insurance premiums goes toward treating other people’s obesity- and inactivity-related health conditions.
The benefits of physical activity are clear, but getting people to live healthier lives has been difficult. Many health insurance companies have attempted to address this problem by offering incentives to people willing to adopt healthy behaviors such as not smoking. Corporations and other institutions have undertaken similar actions by offering incentives for employees who are physically active, maintain a healthy body weight, lower their blood pressure, have healthy cholesterol levels, wear their seat belts consistently, and so on.
Some employers have gone even further, using disincentives to encourage their employees to make healthy behavior changes. For example, employees of Whirlpool who smoke are required to pay an extra $500 a year in insurance costs. Some employers have threatened smokers with termination of employment, and others will not hire a person who smokes. One Cincinnati-based company fines employees an extra $15 to $75 a month in health care premiums if their body mass index is above what is considered healthy.
However, there has been a backlash against policies that either incentivize or penalize people for their good health and habits. About half of all states have passed laws prohibiting employers from firing or refusing to hire people who smoke during nonworking hours. These laws are intended to keep employers from discriminating against people who engage in a legal activity (smoking) on their own time. Some employees are reluctant to share personal data, such as their exercise, eating, and smoking habits, with their employer. Others point out that physical inactivity is only one of many factors that contribute to obesity and other health problems. Genetics play a role, as do socioeconomic status and community resources. People should not be blamed for health conditions that are not entirely their fault, opponents argue.
DISCUSSION QUESTION – The use of incentive programs, and especially disincentives, by employers and insurance companies to induce behavior change has been controversial. Should people who choose to take health risks be penalized? What do you think?
• Health care costs are skyrocketing, and sedentary lifestyles are a primary cause. Encouraging people to adopt healthy behaviors will decrease health care costs.
• The power to be more physically active is under the control of the individual.
• Empirical evidence supports the relationship between physical inactivity and preventable diseases.
• Insurance companies already use incentives and disincentives in their life insurance and automobile insurance plans.
• An overemphasis on individual health is part of a victim-blaming mentality that does not take into account the impact of genetics, culture, and racial inequalities on health.
• Use of incentives and disincentives is an invasion of privacy and a violation of personal rights.
• Some racial and ethnic groups, low-income people, and people with disabilities living in urban areas do not have adequate access to fitness or park and recreation facilities.