Obese Smokers Insurance
Obese Smokers Insurance – The obese and smokers programs have until now met little resistance in the courts. The 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevents workers from being discriminated against on the basis of health if they’re in a group health plan. However, there’s a catch, and that loophole allows employers to offer wellness and incentive programs of up to 20 percent of the cost for participation.
President Barack Obama’s big health care reform, the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, will enable employers beginning in 2014 to bump that difference in premiums to 30 percent and potentially up to 50 percent.
Employers do, however, also need to provide an alternative for workers who can’t meet the goals. That could include producing a doctor’s note to say it is medically very difficult, or even impossible, to achieve certain goals, says Timothy Jost, a professor at the Washington and Lee School of Law. For example, a worker with asthma may not be able to participate in a company exercise program.
These wellness programs typically include a health risk assessment completed online, and on-site free medical screenings for things such as blood pressure, body mass index, and cholesterol.
The programs, while voluntary, often typically offer financial benefits – including lower insurance premiums, gift cards and employer contributions to health savings accounts. For example, workers at the railroad company Union Pacific get $100 in their health savings account for completing the health assessment, $100 if they don’t use tobacco and $100 if they get an annual physical (tobacco users also can get the $100 if they participate in a tobacco cessation program).
The effort began several years when it banned smoking at the medical center and then refused to hire smokers. It later recognized that having a gym and weight loss classes wasn’t enough to get people to participate. It made these facilities and programs free and provided lower premiums to workers who maintained their health or improved it, typically with their doctor’s help and those who are obese.