As healthcare plans begin to ramp up for the new year, many are faced with a choice to make. Though there has been a lot of press on the Affordable Care Act, a majority of health coverage is still provided by the employer. In an effort to slow costs, companies have started wellness programs and offer discounts for certain behaviors. However, by participating in these programs, privacy concerns start to come up.
Some of the discounts offered are not really discounts at all. A discount implies that if you do nothing, everything will stay the same. What ends up happening instead, is the member gets penalized if they do not participate in the wellness program. By doing this, they are actually willingly sharing private health information with their employer.
It is no surprise that members of these plans get targeted by advertisers. If you are in a plan like this, and you share this information, the chances are your employer is selling that data. You are allowing access to the very health information that some health laws are trying to protect. Though you are getting a discount, you are making yourself vulnerable.
From the company’s perspective, there are different motivations. Most of the time, companies are worried about their bottom line. By having wellness programs and collecting information, the health insurance companies are able to offer discounts based on risk. The more people they have that are healthy, the less chance the health plan will have to pay for a claim.
Ultimately, the choice is up to you. You certainly are not required to participate in these types of wellness programs, but you get a financial benefit if you do. It all comes down to money, and the amount of information you are willing to share. Some people are willing to give up more than others.
Is giving up information OK in order to get a discount? That depends on your perspective. If you are a person that highly values your privacy, no incentive is enough to provide information. If you are always looking to save money, these types of programs are right up your alley. If you are in the middle, you have to decide how much of a discount is worth the information you are providing. Just be aware, this trend is likely to continue. There are many that miss the days when they were not penalized for ignoring their employer’s requests.