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Senate bill's wellness provisions spur discrimination worries


By Rebecca Vesely
Posted: January 3, 2010 - 12:01 am ET
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Women could face discrimination in the workplace if certain wellness provisions in the Senate health reform bill go into effect, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families.

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The Senate bill would allow employers more leeway in rewarding workers for participating in workplace wellness programs and achieving health goals. Current law allows employers to give rewards not exceeding 20% of the cost of health insurance coverage, but the Senate bill would raise that amount to up to 50%. Some workers could be exempt from participation because of a medical condition.

Many employers say they need more tools to help their workforce improve and maintain their health. The House health reform bill does not include this change in incentives.

The National Partnership joins a chorus of other patient groups, including the American Diabetes Association, condemning this provision of the Senate bill.

“Research has demonstrated that women are more likely than men to suffer from a chronic condition, meaning that women could pay disproportionately more for health insurance under these programs than their male colleagues,” the National Partnership said in an issue brief. “Such disparities are even more acute for low-income women and women of color.”

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