Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Are the Wellness Police Knocking at Your Door?

A little over a year ago, we did an article on “The Wellness Police” in our complimentary monthly e-newsletter, “Wellness in the Workplace.” (You can sign up for it on The Workplace page of our website, In that article we talked about measures employers can legally take to promote wellness in their workplace without “crossing the line.” And with the health care monster looming, many are beginning to take those steps, addressing issues of obesity and smoking—preventable conditions, both of which lead to chronic and expensive-to-treat illnesses.

As an example, Whirlpool suspended 39 workers for lying about their smoking habits, by claiming to be non-smokers to avoid paying an annual $500 surcharge Whirlpool assessed on smokers enrolled in their company’s health benefits plan.

This isn’t an incident isolated to Whirlpool Corp., and it isn’t limited to smoking. There’s a “perfect storm” brewing in the employer-paid health care arena—accelerating medical costs, rising health care needs (in large part due to our sedentary lifestyles and overweight / obesity) and the approaching “talent war” that will make it more difficult to reduce health care benefits.

So, will employers have any choice but to move closer to workplace wellness as a requirement for employment? Interesting question. Complicated implications. Now, here’s a pretty uncomplicated solution if you think about it—what if we all took charge of our personal health and wellness, and what if we did it by doing those very things we know we should do? Why don’t we?

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