ObamaCare’s wellness shakedown
If your insurance provider hasn’t offered you a big “discount” for meeting certain body weight and lifestyle targets, there’s a good chance it will be coming your way soon. And of course, every subsidy is a tax upon those who don’t receive it. Wellness “discounts” are actually a means of cloaking even higher insurance premiums, and ObamaCare turned these programs into an immensely powerful tool for extracting revenue from consumers. It’s an easy system to rig – there is enormous latitude to set what are loosely described as “reasonable” goals “designed to promote health or prevent disease” in the regulations. Just make the goals extremely difficult to meet, and watch those extra premium payments come rolling in.
As bad as the ObamaCare “sticker shock” has already been, it’s actually quite a bit worse than most people think it is. They’ll learn the truth when they find out how difficult it is to comply with their wellness program. Fox News reports:
Under ObamaCare, smoking, obesity and other health conditions sometimes penalized by wellness programs can force even those with employer-provided insurance to pay more, an officer of the National Union of Healthcare Workers said Tuesday.
“I run five miles a day, I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. And by the Kaiser wellness program that a number of employees we represent are covered by, I’m two pounds from being overweight,” said John Borsos.
Kaiser said in a statement late Tuesday that its program is voluntary and does not penalize those who don’t meet the program’s goals, although that is not true for other programs.
It’s not unreasonable to offer lower rates to people in good health, or charge more for those with profoundly unhealthy habits that are likely to result in expensive health problems down the road. In fact, that’s pretty much how insurance worked… until ObamaCare came along. Now the old actuarial reasoning of the insurance industry has been turned on its head, as young and healthy people are soaked with sky-high premiums – massive hidden taxes, when you get right down to it – so that older, richer, sicker people can pay lower rates. Wellness programs are, in theory, the last remnant of the old, logical order.
But in practice, it seems like many of these programs are taking advantage of the loose wording in ObamaCare regulations to set goals that not many customers can meet:
Borsos criticizes what he calls “a lack of precision in what’s going on out there. It’s kind of troubling,” he says, “that this was so heavily incorporated into the Affordable Care Act in the way that it was.”
“Wellness is very, very popular in the corporate world,” says John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas. “Companies are just beginning to impose pretty severe penalties.”
If workers do not participate, for instance, they can be charged up to 20 percent of their health insurance premium, and that is going up to 30 percent in January.
It’s even worse for smokers, who can get socked with a huge 50 percent penalty… measured against the exploding premiums typical of “Affordable” Care Act policies.
There are also some uncomfortable privacy issues, which should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the previously sacrosanct (and apocryphal) “right to privacy” evaporate like morning dew under a hot sun over the past five years. Historians will marvel that simply installing a hard-Left President was enough to silence so many of the people who would normally complain about the death of privacy, especially when the execution was carried out with such dizzying speed.
Union leader Borsos also argues wellness plans can be very intrusive, asking a series of very personal questions.
He pointed to one, for instance, that asks such questions as “Have you ever had a total hysterectomy? How much do you weigh?… In the last month, have you ever felt nervous or stressed? In the last month, how often have you been angered because of things beyond your control? ”
And finally, “During the past week, I have felt lonely– yes or no? During the past week, I have felt sad, yes or no?”
“Angered because of things beyond your control?” That describes most people who have had direct contact with ObamaCare, doesn’t it?
In theory, fitness and lifestyle requirements are within your control – you can choose to stop smoking, watch what you eat, and exercise more. These are choices many people want to make. Some will welcome a financial incentive that blows away their old excuses and motivates them to get in shape. Nearly everyone will accept such objectives as both individually laudable and socially desirable – we hear a lot about how much of a strain unhealthy lifestyles put on our health care system. For this reason, objections to what might otherwise seem like intrusive, heavy-handed programs will be muted. You can refuse to participate, after all… provided you’re willing to pay the price. But how many people understood that the price would be this high, or that winning the preferred rates would be so difficult?