A recent Huffington Post report highlighted a policy change at CVS Caremark, whereby workers who use the company’s health insurance program will be strongly encouraged, ‘er coerced to get a health assessment (height, weight, body mass index, blood pressure, et. al.) AND to make the results available to a firm that provides benefits support to their employer. According to the HuffPo piece, workers who choose not to participate will be fined $600 for the privilege of keeping their health data to themselves.
Health assessments are neither unreasonable nor new. They represent an effort by employers (who still provide and pay for the vast majority of private health insurance coverage in this country) to encourage workers to take greater interest in their own health. Many of those same employers incentivize (or dis-incentivize, depending on your perspective) people to complete the assessment.
Where CVS appears to be breaking new ground is in requiring workers to turn over the results of that review, or face a penalty. Though companies that take this approach are quick to point out that the personal health data is being held by a contractor and not directly by the employer, that distinction is not particularly assuring.
Our advice to those in the C-suite is that, if they are going to continue providing health insurance for their workers, they should proceed apace in taking sensible measures to yield a better functioning, more efficient, better understood, user-friendly system. Greater cost sharing, and incentivized health assessments for the covered population are part of that, as are much better communication efforts.
But they should be careful not to get heavy handed in their approach. The labor market that has favored employers for the past five years is beginning to shift in the other direction. And, beginning in 2014 with full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, workers, many of whom have felt chained to their jobs by access to health benefits, will have new choices when it comes to purchasing insurance.
It is entirely possible that at the precise moment that organizations are renewing their interest in hanging onto talent, many of their workers, led by the most talented, will be voting with their feet. That”s a challenge we don”t need.