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CVS asks workers to submit medical information or pay extra health care fine

March 20, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
CVS is coming under fire for a controversial new policy that requires all employees who use its health plan to submit vital information or pay extra for health insurance.

The pharmacy chain has told all of its nearly 200,000 workers on its health care plan that they have until May 1 to get a health screening and report back to the company their weight, height, blood pressure and other levels if they don't want their rates to go up.

Employees who agree to this will see no change. However, those who refuse will pay an extra $50 per month for health insurance.

Critics and patients' rights advocates worry that this could be the first step toward firing sick workers and adopting a policy of discrimination.

"It's technology-enhanced discrimination on steroids," said Dr. Debora Peele, a patient advocate and founder of Patient's Privacy Rights. "The approach they're taking is based on the assumption that somehow, these people need to be whipped, they need to be penalized in order to make themselves healthy."

Some customers at the Burbank CVS agreed.

"The workers can probably look at themselves and probably take more care of themselves, but it's not the employer who has to force that upon them," said Angelica Garcia of Los Angeles.

Burbank resident Kevin Hammond said he doesn't understand why CVS is now implementing the new rule if its main reason was to promote health.

"That doesn't sound like it's promoting health. It sounds like it's just invading your privacy. I mean, if they're going to promote health, maybe offer a discount on a fitness club or something," Hammond said.

A spokesman for the pharmacy released the following statement:

"CVS Caremark is committed to providing medical coverage and health care programs for our colleagues and our benefits program is evolving to help our colleagues take more responsibility for improving their health and managing health-associated costs. An initial step to accomplish this goal is a health screening and wellness review so that colleagues know their key health metrics in order to take action to improve their overall health, if necessary."

The company also pointed out that it doesn't even see the results of the employees' health checkups and that the data would go directly to the insurance company.

"The goal of these kinds of programs is to end up with a healthier workforce. If your employees are healthy, they're going to work better and they're going to cost the employer a lot less money," said Dr. Rich Besser, ABC News' senior medical editor.

The chain stressed that this is a voluntary action, but critics say it's hardly voluntary if workers are being forced to pay $600 per year for not participating.

The employees' union has yet to comment.


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