Faced with rising health care costs, employers are adopting stricter policies to keep workers healthy. Failure to comply with those measures could hurt employees' wallets.
Workers at tire manufacturer company Michelin could miss out on reducing their deductibles by up to $1,000 if they show unhealthy signs like high blood pressure or waistlines over 40 inches, The Wall Street Journal reports. Companies such as Walmart and Home Depot have similar policies, designed to reduce surging health care costs. But often these new policies require employees to share personal health information, something critics say is both unfair and an invasion of privacy.
With health care costs rising in 2012 to $12,136 per employee on average, according to a recent study, companies argue that the new policies not only help cut costs, but also contribute to the overall well being of their workforces.
Indeed, Michelin told The Huffington Post that The Wall Street Journal’s claim that the company is penalizing workers for showing signs of obesity is not accurate. Instead, the new policy set to take effect next year “helps us help our employees” by rewarding workers who meet standards for at least three of five health indicators, such as waist size, cholesterol and blood pressure.
CVS made a similar defense in March of its new “wellness review” policy, which will dock employees $600 if they elect not to disclose personal health information to the company’s insurance provider. The policy is designed to “help our colleagues engage more actively to improve their health and manage health-associated costs,” a CVS representative wrote The Huffington Post in an email in March.
Fair or not, it’s likely that more companies will soon adopt stricter policies regarding employee health. Sixty percent said they plan on penalizing workers who don’t meet health standards in the future, according to a recent survey by Aon. Meanwhile, 80 percent say they’ll soon increase the cost of employee insurance premiums, a separate survey found.
Starting Jan. 1, individuals making more than $200,000 per year, and couples making more than $250,000, will face a 0.9 percent Medicare tax increase on wages above those threshold amounts. They'll also face an additional 3.8 percent tax on investment income. Together these are the biggest tax increase in the health care law.
Starting in 2014, companies with 50 or more employees that do not offer coverage will face penalties if at least one of their employees receives government-subsidized coverage. The penalty is $2,000 per employee, but a company's first 30 workers don't count toward the total.
Health Care Industries
Insurers, drug companies and medical device manufacturers face new fees and taxes. Companies that make medical equipment sold chiefly through doctors and hospitals, such as pacemakers, artificial hips and coronary stents, will pay a 2.3 percent excise tax on their sales, expected to total $1.7 billion in its first year, 2013. They're trying to get it repealed.
The insurance industry faces an annual fee that starts at $8 billion in its first year, 2014.
Pharmaceutical companies that make or import brand-name drugs are already paying fees; they totaled $2.5 billion in 2011, the first year.
People Who Don't Get Health Insurance
Nearly 6 million people who don't get health insurance will face tax penalties starting in 2014. The fines are estimated to raise $6.9 billion in 2016. Average penalty in that year: about $1,200.
Indoor Tanning Devotees
The 10 percent sales tax on indoor tanning sessions took effect in 2010. It's expected to raise $1.5 billion over 10 years. The 28 million people who visit tanning booths and beds each year – mostly women under 30, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology – are already paying. Tanning salons were singled out because of strong medical evidence that exposure to ultraviolet lights increases the risk of skin cancer.