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.
American anti-smoking and anti-tobacco activist Terrie Hall has died at the age of 53 from cancer.
Hall became well known after displaying her lack of voice box in a number of CDC anti-smoking television ads. She had her larynx removed after doctors diagnosed her with oral cancer in 2001, and up until her death, has spoken with an electrolarynx.
The CDC praised Hill for her bravery in publicly discussing her battle with cancer, saying that they estimate $1.6 million people tried to quit smoking in the first year of the campaign and nearly 100,000 smokers permanently quit as a result of seeing Hill’s ads.
Hill reportedly started smoking when she was a teenager, and wound up smoking two packs a day up until her cancer diagnosis in 2001. Since then, she has catapulted to the forefront of the anti-smoking movement in the hopes that other people can prevent what she has had to deal with.
“Being able to make a difference in somebody else’s life is what it’s about,” said Hall in a May interview with North Carolina’s Fox8. “I’m very passionate about not wanting people to go through what I’m going through because of choices I made at an early age.”
The CDC says that they filmed new ads featuring Hill just last weekend, after it was recently discovered that the cancer had spread to her brain. According to reports, the organization has not decided whether or not to use the footage.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin recognized Hall this year in the nation’s capital for her anti-smoking efforts.
“It was the ultimate honor,” said Hall. “God has blessed me, He blesses me every day.”
The CDC says that Hall will be remembered for the efforts that she put in to let others know the real effects of smoking.
"She was a public health hero," said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "She may well have saved more lives than most doctors do."