Get Used to It - The Missourian: Opinion

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Get Used to It

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Posted: Saturday, March 23, 2013 6:32 pm

People don’t like it when the government tells them what to do.

When New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed restricting the sale of jumbo soda drinks as part of a public health initiative it triggered an outpouring of criticism from across the country.

The effort was viewed by many as unnecessary and an overreach. It’s the kind of thing that inspires people to fly a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag.

Bloomberg, who has made public health a hallmark of his administration, argued the city was simply trying to stem an epidemic of obesity driven by consumption of sugary beverages, which is rising because food establishments sell ever-larger portions.

He pointed out how obesity and other self-inflicted medical conditions caused by poor lifestyle choices tax our already-overtaxed health care system.

The proposal is just the latest in a series of initiatives he’s pushed to make New Yorkers healthier.

Previously, he banned artery-clogging trans-fat food additives and workplace smoking; raised tobacco taxes; increased testing for HIV, cholesterol and blood pressure; and required restaurant chains to post the calorie content of menu items.

Like many of his previous initiatives, Bloomberg’s ban on jumbo soft drinks has been challenged in court.

We thought of the backlash against Bloomberg when we learned of the backlash against CVS Pharmacy which also instituted a new health initiative for its employees.

The company announced this week it was instituting a new policy that requires employees who use its health plan to submit their weight, body fat, glucose levels and other vitals or pay a monthly fine of $50.

Employees who agree to the testing will see no change in their health insurance rates.

In a statement, CVS stressed that the health screening was voluntary and the company would never see the test results. The company told ABC News that its “benefits program is evolving to help our colleagues take more responsibility for improving their health and managing health-associated costs.”

As you can imagine, the new policy didn’t sit too well with some of CVS’ employees who complained it was an invasion of their privacy and nothing more than coercion to get them to lead healthier lives.

They better get used to it.

CVS is following a national trend in health care. Hundreds of other employers are starting to introduce similar programs to help drive down health care costs.

The simple reality is healthy employees cost employers less money to insure which is why these types of health screening program are starting to spring up across the country.

Going forward, unhealthy people will pay more for health insurance. That much is clear. Those who participate in wellness programs and take better care of themselves will pay less.

The fear for many is that if this trend continues unhealthy people — those who are obese or who smoke or who have pre-existing conditions — will never be able to afford health insurance or won’t be eligible at all.

The concept isn’t new. For as long as we can remember life insurance providers have charged more for policies for smokers than nonsmokers.

It may seem like discrimination to some, but courts have upheld these types of programs and other health incentive programs in the private marketplace.

We appreciate that there is a difference between the government telling us what to do, and an employer telling us what we have to do. If you don’t like the employer’s policies, you don’t have to participate in the plan or you can find another employer. You won’t tread on me.

If it was only that easy.

Time to get in shape.

/opinion