Apr 19, 2014 fbook icon twitter icon rss icon
Health

More Employers To Charge For Being Fat, Smoking Under Obamacare

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Employees may soon be paying higher health insurance premiums for not meeting their employer’s health requirements.

One survey said 40 percent of major US firms would begin surcharging workers who fail to meet health requirements, such as weight loss goals and quitting smoking, in 2014. By 2015, two thirds of large companies are expected to implement the similar surcharges.

Currently, employees at 5,000 companies with such wellness guidelines have to measure up if they want full coverage.

According to a report from the Obesity Action Coalition, 67 percent of employees at these companies had to meet a weight-related health goal, but 60 percent of them received no coverage for the dietician counseling, fitness training, obesity drugs or bariatric surgery that might help them reach that goal.

"Weight requirements are an effective way to make it harder for people with obesity to qualify for full health coverage," said study author and founder of Conscienhealth Ted Kyle.

"Some programs can verge on discrimination," he said.

State employees in Washington and Wisconsin might pay $600 more per year for health coverage. Nonunion works at UPS could pay as much as $1,800 more, Reuter reported.

Under Obamacare, employees receive up to 20 percent of their health costs if they participate in health programs, like maximum body mass index, cessation, or voluntary screenings.

"We found that while less than 10 percent of workers at large employers smoke, their impact to healthcare costs is disproportionately huge," said vice president for the National Business Group on Health LuAnn Heinen. "Helping them quit — however you do that — has the most obvious near-term payoff in terms of savings and productivity gains."

If employees don’t save money through these measures, they are allowed to raise premiums.

While wellness programs are voluntary under the law, employees don’t feel like they have a choice, said Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute.

"In today's job market, any reasonable request by one's employer is essentially read as a demand,” Maltby said.

Sources: Newser, Reuters