Northeast Ohio companies adding wellness programs and some require you meet certain health standards

PARMA, Ohio - One of the nation's largest drug store chains is telling its 200,000 employees to get a health screening or pay a price. Similar health insurance policies are in effect for companies right here in northeast Ohio, including our parent company.

"I just think that makes no sense at all. I think people should have equal healthcare whether you are obese or skinny," Parma resident Brad Dudukovich said.

"This policy is a great policy because people need to be healthy and eat right," Parma resident Angela Sardon said.

In Parma, employees are given a score from 0-5 based on results for tobacco use, cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass and glucose. For privacy reasons, the city doesn't know which risk factors you have. They only know your score (0-5) and offer a progressive discount based on your results.

The healthier you are, the less you'll pay for insurance premiums.

"I don't think that's right. Everybody should have their own choice with what they do with their life," said Parma Resident Joanne Pleban.

Parma's Human Resources Director said if employees know their health conditions they can address them before they become a bigger and more expensive problem.

Parma is not alone. The Cleveland Clinic has wellness programs and won't hire an employee who smokes.

Mike DeAngelis, director of public relations at CVS pharmacy said, "To encourage a higher level of participation in our wellness review, we reviewed best practices and determined that an additional cost for those who do not complete the review was the most effective way to incent our colleagues to improve their health care and manage health costs."

"We are undoubtedly going to see a lot more of this," Jessica Berg said.

Berg is a Professor of law, bioethics, and public health at Case Western Reserve Schools of Medicine and Law. She said the Affordable Care Act made clear that wellness programs are a good thing, but she expects there will be growing pains.

"Some aspects of this are not entirely clear, and we'll see some pushing back and forth on who gets to do what and what's appropriate," Berg explained.

Berg said privacy is a big issue, but companies say it's taken seriously. Parma doesn't know the specific risk factors you have, and CVS said it's taking steps to ensure privacy as well.

"CVS Caremark is committed to providing medical coverage and health care programs for our colleagues and privacy is rigorously protected, consistent with HIPAA regulations. All personal health data from these screenings are collected and reviewed by a third party administrator that supports the CVS Caremark Wellness Program and this data is not shared with CVS Caremark - rather it is designed to help employees make the best decisions about their own health care," DeAngelis said.

Some people are still not convinced.

"After working at the phone company for 32 years, everybody did their job. I had guys that were overweight that worked faster than I did sometimes. I think it should not be an issue as long as you get the job done. That's all that matters," Parma resident Corky Sanko said.

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