Monday, July 22, 2013
Beginning in the fall, Penn State will levy a "health tax" (they're calling it a "surcharge") of $100 per month against any employee, including faculty, who fails a healthcare screening that includes a “full lipid profile,” blood-glucose test, body mass index and waist circumference measurement. Yeow! So even if you're in relatively good shape but pound Twinkies between work-outs which sends your lipids rocketing past the Dow Jones Industrial Average, you're going to have to pay-up. Inside Higher Ed has the full story.
It’s increasingly common for colleges and universities, like other businesses, to offer the employees they insure incentives for staying healthy. And that makes sense; experts agree it’s a lot cheaper to treat illnesses earlier rather than later, or to prevent them altogether. But instead of offering “carrots” to its employees for seeking preventive care, Pennsylvania State University starting this fall is opting for the “stick,” imposing a $100 monthly surcharge on those who don’t meet new health requirements.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Penn State’s “Take Care of Your Health” initiative has some faculty up in arms.
“I care about my health – I try to exercise every day and I eat pretty well,” Matthew Woessner, professor of political science at the Harrisburg campus. “But I resent that my employer requires that I submit to medical exams, essentially. There’s a fine line between encouraging employees to be healthy and requiring them to comply with health screenings.”
Larry Backer, a professor of law and past Faculty Senate president at Penn State’s main campus in University Park, agreed.
“The coercive feature is novel, at least at Penn State, though program administrators tried hard to mask it in the language of choice and consequences,” he said, noting the Senate wasn't consulted on the plan.
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By November, faculty and their spouses or domestic partners covered by university health care must complete an online wellness profile and physical exam. They’re also required to complete a more invasive biometric screening, including a “full lipid profile” and glucose, body mass index and waist circumference measurements. (Mobile units from the university’s insurance company, Highmark, will visit campuses to perform these screenings.)
Employees and their beneficiaries who don’t meet those requirements must pay the monthly insurance surcharge beginning in January.
“It is important to note that screening results are confidential and will not be used to remove or reduce health care benefits, nor raise an individual’s health care premium,” a university announcement reads. “The results only are for individual health awareness, illness prevention and wellness promotion.”