As if we needed another reminder about how hard it is to change health care policy, USA Today has an article describing employee resistance to wellness programs. (USA Today article) There have also been reports that unions and some disease advocacy groups are objecting to the wellness and prevention provisions proposed in some health reform measures. The concerns center on invasions of employee privacy, incursions on personal choice and freedoms about health related behaviors and fairness to persons with disabling diseases.
Readers of these commentaries know that our perspective is that while there may be reasons to be skeptical about how much cost these programs can save, there is no question that they improve health. When there is such national concern over health care costs, and when it is clear that our population health status in areas such as obesity is so poor, it is hard to understand objections to basic programs designed to encourage people to take responsibility to engage in good health behaviors. In fact, government should do everything it can to facilitate these programs.
People should be able to make choices about how they live, but the rest of us should not have to pay for some individuals’ bad choices. It seems to be a matter of simple fairness that if a person doesn’t take steps to control blood pressure, blood sugar levels, weight, tobacco use, etc., that person should pay more for their health care and health care coverage, or at a minimum, people who are willing to take those steps should pay less.
Problems resolving an issue like support of wellness and prevention programs make it clear just how difficult it will be to get a sound health care reform bill passed. If we can’t make the right decision on this issue, what hope is there of effectively solving much more difficult cost and coverage problems.