It is a jump ball whether workers trust their employers to not use information gleaned from employer-sponsored wellness programs against them, according to research cited in a recent report from the Center for Studying Health System Change.
Some health plans are offering products to employers in which employees can cut deductibles by verifying that they dont smoke, meet targets for body-mass index, blood pressure or cholesterol levels, according to the report by researchers Debra Draper, Ann Tynan and Jon Christianson, Health and Wellness: The Shift from Managing Illness to Promoting Health.
Employers are also considering instituting premium differentials for employees based on whether they participate in health and wellness activities, but recent regulatory guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Labor limit the differentials, the report authors said, noting further, such differentials have been a hard pill for employees to prescribe and employees to swallow. The threat by an Indianapolis health system to move in this direction reportedly met with stiff resistance, the authors said.
The report also cited the results of a 2007 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Associates in which employees were asked to respond to the statement: Employers that offer wellness programs are intruding on worker privacy.
Their responses: 11% indicted they strongly agree, 35% somewhat agree, 29% somewhat disagree and 25% strongly disagree.
A previous survey from the California Healthcare Foundation netted similar results, finding that 52% of the respondents indicated they were worried about employers using medical information to limit job opportunities, and 13% had taken some form of privacy protecting behavior such as not fully disclosing medical information.
Citing their own research, the Center for Studying Health System Change authors said a Miami benefits consultant questioned the validity of employee-provided information on risk assessments because of employees privacy concerns.