New CVS Employee Health Policy Stoking Weighty Debate

The company's employees could pay $600 a year in added premiums if they don't get their weight, body fat and glucose levels screened by May 2014

By Gilma Avalos
|  Thursday, Mar 21, 2013  |  Updated 6:42 AM EDT
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CVS employees who use the company health insurance have until May of next year to have their doctors screen their weight, body fat, and glucose levels. If they don't, their premiums will go up $50 a month. In a year, the total could add up to $600.

CVS employees who use the company health insurance have until May of next year to have their doctors screen their weight, body fat, and glucose levels. If they don't, their premiums will go up $50 a month. In a year, the total could add up to $600.

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For some, facing the number on the scale is scary enough, let alone sharing that information with others. A new employee health policy at CVS is stirring a weighty debate.
 
"It doesn't hold any value as far as your skills or ability to work," said Miriam DeFrancisco, a CVS shopper in Miramar.
 
CVS employees who use the company health insurance have until May of next year to have their doctors screen their weight, body fat, and glucose levels. If they don't, their premiums will go up $50 a month. In a year, the total could add up to $600.
 
"My opinion hasn't changed. I don't think an employer has any right to infringe upon the privacy of their employees," said Brad Seff, who now lives in North Carolina.

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For Seff and attorney Dan Levine, the debate is all too familiar. In 2011, Seff, then a Broward County employee, refused to undergo health screenings. When he was penalized with a surcharge of $20 a paycheck, he sued the county.
 
"A lot of people didn't like it, but they were afraid to get involved, afraid of repercussion. Or couldn't afford to give up $40 a month in their paycheck," Seff added.
 
Rhode Island-based CVS said in a statement that the information would be looked at by a third party. It would not be shared with CVS. The goal is to help employees "improve their health and manage health-associated costs," the company said.

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"We want to do whatever we can to lower health costs, but when you talk about invading employees' privacy and requiring that they participate in these programs or else face some kind of monetary penalty, that's the concern and that's where I think employers like CVS cross the line," Levine said.
 
But CVS isn't alone. A 2009 survey of 500 companies found that 8 percent used financial penalties to motivate healthy behavior. Last year, that number jumped to 20 percent.

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Seff lost his suit, but those who argue privacy is being violated, say employees may not be willing to step on the scale without a fight.
 
"I think CVS clearly is going to be subject to a legal attack and whether the court looks at the facts of that particular case differently remains to be seen," Levine said.

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