The CVS health-screening debate
Source: Washington Post blog by Jena McGregor
Retailer CVS was in the news Tuesday for requiring that all of its 200,000 employees who participate in the company’s health-insurance plan get a health screening (paid for by CVS) that assesses their weight, height, body fat and cholesterol levels-or pay some $600 more for their health coverage a year. The Boston Herald, followed by publications including the Los Angeles Times and Gawker, reported that if employees do not submit to the health assessment by May 1 then their annual health insurance costs will increase.
The interest in the story is understandable. Critics worry that the request could be invasive, even though CVS has been clear that a third-party administrator would be reviewing the data and would not share it with the company. No matter how private the information may be, sharing weight and other health details can feel a little unnerving.
Yet I’m actually surprised there’s as much interest in the news as there seems to be. CVS is hardly the first company to make such a request: According to human resources consultancy Aon Hewitt, 83 percent of respondents to a 2013 survey of more than 1,000 U.S. employers said they offer some type of incentive to employees for taking a health-risk questionnaire or submitting to a biometric screening. Other companies even go much further, asking employees not only to submit to a health-care screening but to actually meet certain blood pressure or cholesterol thresholds, or at least agree to work toward improving them, to receive the discount.