I listened to this NPR story this morning, without expecting to write about it here. The headline says it all: “Targeting Overweight Workers with Wellness Programs Can Backfire.” This is mostly about the private sector. The lesson definitely has some application to what might go wrong, say, if the First Lady was to try to impose “healthy” foods on school kids against their will or if schools were to ban birthday treats in class. But for the most part it is only about large corporations and their “wellness” programs.
Or wellness harassment programs.
But in addition to trying to harangue encourage employees to get into shape, there is a more sinister aspect to promoting “wellness”—especially because “mental health” is also a medical expense. This led to an uprising of sorts in one state school:
Some employees, including Matthew Woessner, a professor of public policy at Penn State University, think some wellness programs go too far.
“We commonly refer to it as the great wellness rebellion,” Woessner says.
He led the rebellion last summer when his university asked employees to participate in a medical screening survey or pay $100 more a month for their health insurance.
The survey asked workers (without asking them to submit their names) “whether they were depressed, whether they were having marital problems,” Woessner says. “It got into such intimate details of our lives that we thought it was inappropriate for the university to require such a survey and not give us a way to opt out.”
It seemed invasive, he says, even though it was anonymous. And though he’s sympathetic to the university’s need to control health costs, he thinks a survey can’t achieve that — it won’t make people healthier.
So Woessner circulated a petition to change the program. Eventually, his side prevailed. Now, those who participate in the survey receive a cash benefit. But there is no penalty for those opting out.
So what do you think is ahead of us with the Affordable Care Act manipulating us into fewer and bigger insurance pools? I’m glad that survey did not require participants to identify themselves, but that will probably change in the near future. I doubt it will be too long, if present trends continue, before we are all given invasive questions about our marriages and mental states. We already know that they are trying to use “health” as an excuse to marginalize and harass gun owners.
I don’t think there is any limit to what information they will try to collect on us—all of it going to a centralized database.