Regarding “Senate bill’s wellness provisions spur discrimination worries” (ModernHealthcare.com, Jan. 3):
This legislation is exactly what employers need to help curb healthcare inflation with premiums expected to increase 17% to 25% in 2010. Reading commentary that such programs could spur discrimination makes my blood boil and completely misrepresents the intentions and safeguards that are already in place and that will continue to come with these proposed polices.
Working with health plans that represent nearly 31 million lives, we know by and large that most employers want to provide meaningful health benefits to their employees and their families but simply cannot afford it. Unlike all other insurance programs, such as automobile, property-casualty and life insurance, where premiums are priced on the underwriting risk of each policyholder, health insurance premiums are “group rated” and essentially spread over the group members.
This in fact discriminates against the healthy employees who must pay higher premiums because they are grouped with unhealthy and costly members. No one is suggesting a change to this structure but an equilibrium that rewards healthy lifestyles and compliance with care protocols for chronic conditions. Why do we tolerate people who continue to require care because they don’t take their medications or monitor their conditions or improve their lifestyles by losing weight, exercising or quitting smoking—to tackle what caused their chronic illness?
Wellness programs and related incentives are “additional” expenses that employers are required to invest in that, if used by employees and their families, can substantially lower medical inflation and year-over-year costs.
Anyone who argues that wellness incentives discriminate is really saying that individuals should not have any responsibility or accountability for managing their health and lifestyles and that society should continue to financially support these individuals and these behaviors.
It is these protectionists who have got us where we are today. Such behavior is not supported anywhere else in our society. Let’s get the facts straight and support programs that slow the demand side of the healthcare crisis. Wellness incentives as described are fair, intuitive and aligned with free-market economics. They are needed and work. Darren Hodgdon
CEO LifeStart Group