News Headlines Article

When Does Workplace Wellness Become Coercive?
Kaiser Health News

Christine White pays $300 a year more for her health care because she refused to join her former employer’s wellness program, which would have required that she fill out a health questionnaire and join activities like Weight Watchers.

“If I didn’t have the money … I’d have to” participate, says White, 63, a retired groundskeeper from a Portland, Ore., community college.

ike many Americans, White gets her health coverage through an employer that uses financial rewards and penalties to get workers to sign up for wellness programs.  Participation used to be a simple matter — taking optional classes in nutrition or how to stop smoking. But today, a small but growing number of employers tie those financial rewards to losing weight, exercising or dropping cholesterol or blood-sugar levels — often requiring workers to provide personal health information to private contractors who administer the programs.  The incentives, meanwhile, can add up to hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars a year.