No Health Care Benefits for You Because You’re Overweight?

This morning a local TV station in Portland asks the question on its Facebook page:

QUESTION OF THE DAY — More companies are now monitoring not just your job performance, but your waistline as well. They are offering incentives for people who participate in wellness programs, and some companies are even limiting the health care options for those who do not participate.

Should a company be able to monitor the health of its employees? Why or why not?

The responses are predictable. Some flatly say, “no” and others say “why not?”

Many companies have had such a policy in place for several years. Employees in that company may be newer hires so they understood it was the company policy and accepted it before accepting the job. Other employees may have gone through a painful transition period when their company enacted a health policy but are now used to it. Maybe they even appreciate their employer’s “nudge” to live healthier lifestyles.

That doesn’t mean it’s right; it’s just an example of how adaptable humans are. We easily accept what we think we can’t change. We learn to “live with things.” If allowing our employer to monitor our health is a condition of employment, we just shrug our shoulders and lay bare our health history.

I think it’s more of a good idea than a bad idea, but I certainly see the downsides.

  • It’s an invasion of privacy
  • It’s a form of discrimination
  • Health isn’t simply a matter of BMI. 

The policy could result in people taking better care of themselves. It could save lives and improve the quality of many more lives. That’s the benefit. It’s unfortunate, however, that it would take the pressure of an employer to motivate employees to make changes to improve their habits.

What happens if the programs are voluntary? What happens if somebody who should participate refuses? Will refusal draw attention to one’s work performance looking for a legitimate reason (in addition to refusing to participate) to terminate employment?

As I write this, I realize my position has shifted.

I think it is more “no, it’s a bad idea.” I think we need to protect our privacy even though there are obvious benefits. I’m concerned for how far this goes and how far it can go in the future.

What’s your opinion?


Jackie Conn

About Jackie Conn

Jackie Conn is married and has four grown daughters and four grandchildren. She is a Weight Watchers success story. She's a weight loss expert with 25 years of experience guiding women and men to their weight-related goals. Her articles on weight management have been published in health, family and women's magazines. She has been a regular guest on Channel 5 WABI news, FOX network morning program Good Day Maine and 207 on WCSH.