Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Walmart 2012

Yesterday I read a news story regarding employee wellness programs, incentives and health insurance plans.  Several companies and issues were discussed, but I only wanted to make a point of one.

Before I do, please be aware that when proposing to increase premiums or offer incentives to employees based on life style factors many things must be considered.  
Those considerations are extremely important, but not the point of today's blog post.
Some of the strategies that employers are taking in order to reign in health care costs from its unhealthy employees include differential policy pricing.
By this I mean, if a person chooses to use tobacco they may have to pay more for insurance in some manner (premium, copay, deductible) or a coworker who does not use tobacco or who quits, would pay less.  I am in favor of such smoking related policies.
Efforts to relate health insurance to dietary factors are somewhat more complicated, but people can be rewarded for maintaining a health promoting weight, managing their diabetes or blood pressure or losing weight.  These would have to be more individualized and perhaps associated with  goals set by a physician. In other words, if a person is in some way addressing the issue but is still not free of chronic disease, they should not be penalized.  

Again, I am in favor of these measures.  Arguments can be made pro and con.  I have made a personal choice to support them.

Today I wanted to say that I am happy to see that Walmart Stores will be adopting a smoke free policy and will offer free smoking cessation programming to its employees.  I believe that the current plan is to charge employees who continue to smoke about $25 more each pay period.  The proposed date for this program is 2012. 
When policies like this are presented they are often referred to as regressive.  Regressive taxes or policies are said to have more of an impact on low income persons than middle or high income groups.  Cigarette and junk food taxes are said to be regressive.  I think that if something hazardous is affecting the lower class more than the middle class THAT is the first problem that needs to be vocalized and addressed.

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