Reader Deborah alerted me to new regulations released by the Obama administration under the Affordable Care Act increase the maximum reward for participating in employer wellness weight loss programs. Employees who participate in these programs will be “rewarded” up to 30% of the cost of health coverage.
Said another way, people will be penalized for refusing to participate in programs which, though called weight loss program, have absolutely no record of successfully creating long term weight loss. I’ll say it again – these programs have absolutely no evidence that they can achieve long term weight loss or improved health. In fact, many of these so-called “wellness programs” partner with diet companies that have been successfully sued by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive trade practices (you didn’t think that they voluntarily put those “results not typical” disclaimers on their ads, did you?)
I think that there should be an incentive for those people who have enough common sense NOT to sign up for a program with no track record of success, lead by companies that have lost so many lawsuits for deceptive trade practices that they are legally required to say that their product doesn’t work every time they advertise it.
This is discrimination based on how people look, straight up. It has nothing to do with health because it’s not based on health – it’s based on body size. Body size is not a measure of health and we know that because there are healthy fat people and unhealthy thin people and a K-2 sized mountain of evidence that says that habits are a better determinant for health than body size. Tall people have more health problems – maybe they should have to enter Height Watchers and work hard to get shorter or pay more for health insurance. Height Watchers’s success rate is only 5% less than Weight Watchers after all, let’s get cracking tall people. This is extra ridiculous since the Congressional Budget Office itself has said that fat people are not the reason for rising healthcare costs. To be clear, if they were discriminating on health rather than body size, that would be no better.
Anytime we round up a group of people based on how they look and suggest that they need to change how they look or we’re going to charge them more money for something, we can be assured that we are headed down a bad road. In this case it’s even completely contrary to the evidence that exists:
So the Federal Trade Commission has made it abundantly clear that dieting doesn’t work. The Congressional Budget Office has made it clear that fat people are not the cause for rising healthcare costs. Knowing this, the Obama administration is encouraging people to diet to lower health care costs. Stop the logic train, we had a passenger fall off.
At the beginning of the year I was asked to write an article about why these so called “Carrot and Stick” benefit plans are a bad idea. You can read the full article here but the gist is that dieting doesn’t work and organizations including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, and National Women’s Law Association have come out against these programs because of legal issues. So if employers want a healthy workplace they should focus on providing a workplace free from discrimination and options for health like optional workplace walking clubs, discounts on gym memberships, fitness based workplace challenges (instead of weight loss challenges). Now we can add to that not participating in government-encouraged discrimination.
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