Health reform advocates are all for promoting wellness, but there's a controversy brewing about whether change should come through legislation or employers, and whether people who fall short of wellness standards should be penalized.
The health reform bill approved by the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee would allow insurers to charge people who do not meet wellness standards premiums that are up to 30 percent higher.
Safeway CEO Steve Burd wants Congress allow employers to offer health care discounts to those meeting certain wellness standards.
Critics argue that runs counter to efforts in the major health reform bills that would prohibit insurers from charging people different prices on the basis of health status or pre-existing conditions. "Some find it ironic that even as Congress moves toward restricting such practices in the individual market, it is considering allowing employers to move in the other direction," National Journal correspondent Julie Kosterlitz writes in an article (subscription) on the subject on September 26.
"We are deeply concerned about the suggestion that Safeway has to provide discounts on premiums that are dependent on achieving health outcomes," says Dick Woodruff, senior director of federal relations at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. "It's real simple: It's bringing back rating for pre-existing conditions. That defeats everything that we're trying to accomplish" with health reform.
What is the best approach, and what are the dangers?