Employers May Charge You for Being Fat, Smoking

More firms planning to use surcharges under ObamaCare

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 16, 2013 5:38 AM CST

(Newser) – If you don't meet your employer's health requirements, you may soon be paying more for health insurance. One survey found that as of next year, 40% of major US firms will be instituting surcharges on workers who fail to meet such requirements—things like quitting smoking or meeting weight goals—and by 2015, two-thirds of large employers are expected be doing the same. That's in contrast to 19% in 2011, Reuters reports. Already, according to a survey released this week, workers at more than 5,000 companies have to take part in their firms' health programs if they want full coverage; 67% of those workers were subject to specific goals like a maximum body mass index.

ObamaCare measures say employees can get a reward of up to 30% of their health costs if they choose to participate in health programs—for instance, to help quit smoking—or voluntary screenings. Companies are, however, allowed to raise premiums if these programs aren't saving them money. And with employers focused on weight and nicotine, "Some programs can verge on discrimination," says an author of this week's survey. Among the new costs:

  • Smokers who work at Procter & Gamble should get ready to pay an extra $25 per month next year—that is, until they finish a program to help them quit, paid for by the company.
  • Nonunion UPS workers could pay up to $1,800 extra per year if they smoke.
  • Penn State wanted workers to pay $100 per month unless they underwent screenings and a WebMD questionnaire (sample question for men: How often do you examine your testicles?) But workers successfully fought the plan after concerns about privacy arose.

Employers are readying surcharges for workers who smoke.
Employers are readying surcharges for workers who smoke.   (Shutterstock)
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Weight requirements are an effective way to make it harder for people with obesity to qualify for full health coverage. Some programs can verge on discrimination. - Ted Kyle, the study's lead author and founder of Conscienhealth

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