CVS has implemented a so-called wellness program in which employees must go to a doctor to get their weight, body fat, glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure measured, and submit those measurements to a third party healthcare company. They are required to sign a form saying that they are giving this information voluntarily, but if they don’t “volunteer” they are charged an extra $600 a year by CVS.
CVS says that they will never see the information. According to TODAY, CVS’s policy states: “Going forward, you’ll be expected not just to know your numbers – but also to take action to manage them.”
What the hell does that mean? Who decides what constitutes “manage?” Are we headed toward compulsory dieting? Compulsory medication?
Even looking past this gross invasion of privacy, telling employees to use their off-work time to go to the doctor, get their numbers, submit their numbers to a third party, and then “do something” about the numbers is about the laziest attempt I’ve ever seen at employee wellness. There is no actual wellness in CVS’s program unless they think that shame and monetary penalties are the path to health.
I said this yesterday and I’ll say it again today: When we reward and punish people for “health” and “healthy behaviors” we create an environment that ignores the complexities of health, dis/ability, and individual circumstances creating an environment of shame and blame that are the precise opposite of the goals of public health.
You know what has been shown to be seriously detrimental to health? Poverty. According to glassdoor.com, a CVS Cashier Sales Associate makes $8.19/hour. That puts them at about 150% of the Federal Poverty line – and that’s if they’re single with no dependents and they manage to get a full-time schedule (Thanks to reader Lynn for pointing that out.) If these people stand up for themselves and refuse to hand over private medical information, what effect does that have on their day to day lives? Do they take $50 a month out of their grocery budget? Do they skip going to the doctor? Is it fair that a CVS pharmacist can choose to protect their medical privacy for less than an hours of pay each month, but a CVS cashier would lose 6 hours of pay a month (and a much higher percentage) of their wages?
Not to mention that this inappropriately conflates weight and health in a way that is highly problematic while ignoring the fact that even if we believe people would be healthier if they were thinner, there isn’t any method shown to work long-term for more than a tiny fraction of people. Other numbers can be heavily influenced by circumstances outside someone’s control. Even if you believe that employers should take health measurements from employees and threaten that they are “expected to manage” those numbers, doing so is much more complicated than it sounds.
But maybe it’s not a gross overreach into their employees personal health information, maybe it’s a profit driver. Per CNN Money, CVS has 163,000 employees. If half of these employees stand up for themselves, that generates an extra $48,900,000 per year. Where does that money go?
This is not ok. It is not ok to call handing over private health information “voluntary” when not doing it comes with a non-voluntary monetary penalty that could have consequences for employees’ ability to pay their bills. I agree with Dr. Deborah C. Peel, the founder of Patient Privacy Rights, who said “Many employers want to do something for their workers, but very few of them are stupid enough to say give us the information and sign this form and say it’s voluntary,”
I’m standing up. I’m speaking out against this in whatever way I can. I’m boycotting CVS until they end this policy. I signed the petition on change.org. What about you?
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