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Jeanne Boyarsky
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The United States is considering a bill that would change voluntarily workplace wellness programs. As far as I can tell, there are 2-3 changes:
  • The cost of not participating is higher
  • Genetic information can be included
  • Info can now be shared with employers


  • I currently do not participate in my employer's voluntary program. This cost me less than $200 a year.  I learned that they were allowed to charge more even now so they clearly aren't using it to strongarm us (good employer). That said, it is worth more than $200 to me to opt out. I'm not sure how much more yet. (I'm not sick; it's just nobody's business and I don't trust that it won't leak back to my employer).

    The reason I'm posting in the Pit is because I'm curious if any of the above facts above are incorrect. And also if anyone as a link describing what the benefits are of this change.
     
    Paweł Baczyński
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    Do I understand correctly?
    Are you saying that in the US your employer can charge you for not participating in some stupid program? And they call it "voluntary"?
    That's just outrageous...
     
    fred rosenberger
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    It's totally voluntary.  You can choose to participate, or choose to pay a fine/fee/tax.

    Just like being a law abiding citizen is voluntary. You choose to obey the law, or go to jail (or pay a fine...etc).
     
    Paweł Baczyński
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    fred rosenberger wrote:It's totally voluntary.  You can choose to participate, or choose to pay a fine/fee/tax.

    Just like being a law abiding citizen is voluntary. You choose to obey the law, or go to jail (or pay a fine...etc).


    That is an abuse of the word voluntary. By that logic, if I pointed a gun at you and demanded money and you gave me the money, that would be volountary because you could refuse (and got shot).

    But still... Are you saying that if I make an agreement with the employer to do work X for Y dollars, they can pay me Y-200 because I didn't do some stupid "voluntary" program?
    As I said, this is just outrageous.
     
    Liutauras Vilda
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    fred rosenberger wrote:It's totally voluntary.  You can choose to participate, or choose to pay a fine/fee/tax.

    Something is not quite right here. Voluntary I'd expect to be not paid and not fined (that probably better would read as penalised) at the same time.
     
    Henry Wong
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    To be fair, the United States is pretty sedentary -- plus we also have high obesity among its citizens. This puts stress on health care, and of course, companies that must pay for it.

    In a way, I agree with the policy. What I don't agree with are the evasiveness of it though.

    Henry
     
    Paweł Baczyński
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    So, if I eat healthy food, excercise, etc but don't wan't to join some stupid program I'd still be penalised for it.
    As I said, that's just outrageous.
     
    fred rosenberger
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    Ok...so what if it was worded different.  You can not participate and everything stays the same, or you can opt-in, and we'll give you $200.  Then is it voluntary?  Isn't the net effect the same? 

    "but wait!!!" i hear you cry.  "That's different. They're GIVING me more money to do it, not taking it away if I don't!!!". 

    I would argue that's a technicality at best.  They could very easily say "Raises will be smaller than normal next year due to blah blah blah... But if you join this program, we'll give you an additional $200".
     
    Paweł Baczyński
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    It is not the same.

    If we agree I will do Y for X and you'll pay me X (or +200 if I join some stupid program), that's fine.

    If we agree I will do Y for X and you'll pay me X-200 if I don't join some stupid program, that's just outrageous.
     
    fred rosenberger
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    Today, you get paid X dollars. 

    Next year, we'll give you a raise.  your raise will be 2%.  If you participate in this program, your raise will be 2% + $200. 


    Is that OK or not?

    now...what if instead they say:

    Next year, we'll give you a raise.  your raise will be 2% + $200.  If you don't participate in this program, your raise will be 2%. 

    Is that still fine?

    If not, what's the difference? The net effect is the same. 
     
    Liutauras Vilda
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    In my pocket currently is 0 dollars.
    You pay me 100$ a year for work I  do.

    I do not go for your voluntary program, hence don't get pay rise you mentioned.

    Do I have a chance to save 100$ at the end of the year?

    Or I'd need to end up with -100$? Because need to cover 200$ fee for not satisfying your voluntary program conditions?
     
    Paweł Baczyński
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    The difference is timing.

    In one case we are talking about an agreement already made. I agreed to do Y for X so don't you dare giving me less because I didn't do some stupid program. That would be outrageous.

    In the case of possible rise we are talking about an agreement that could be made in the future. Completely different story. Now the stupid program would be a part of Y and as such a part of the deal I decided to accept voluntarily.
     
    fred rosenberger
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    Liutauras Vilda wrote:In my pocket currently is 0 dollars.
    You pay me 100$ a year for work I  do.

    I do not go for your voluntary program, hence don't get pay rise you mentioned.

    Do I have a chance to save 100$ at the end of the year?

    Or I'd need to end up with -100$? Because need to cover 200$ fee for not satisfying your voluntary program conditions?

    In both situations I outlined, you get a pay raise.  In both situations, your raise is 2% + $200 if you participate, and 2% if you don't.
     
    Jesper de Jong
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    If I understand the article that Jeanne linked to correctly, there's a possibility that these programs might require people to "voluntarily" undergo a genetic test.

    That goes really far and would most likely be completely impossible here in the Netherlands / the EU because it looks like a gross violation of your privacy. You don't want your employer or your insurance company to know that you are predispositioned to certain heritable diseases, or they might start to discriminate you based on that. For example the insurance could require you to pay a much higher insurance policy or your employer might decide not to promote you to a higher level because your heart is sensitive to stress and they don't want to take the risk of you getting a heart condition.
     
    fred rosenberger
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    i'm arguing not because I believe this, but becuase i find it interesting. 
    Jesper de Jong wrote:your employer might decide not to promote you to a higher level because your heart is sensitive to stress and they don't want to take the risk of you getting a heart condition.

    Couldn't that work the opposite way, too?  We know you are NOT predisposed to a heart condition, so we're more likely to promote you into a stressful job.  Couldn't that be considered a benefit to doing this sort of thing?
     
    Campbell Ritchie
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    fred rosenberger wrote:. . . We know you are NOT predisposed to a heart condition, so we're more likely to promote you into a stressful job. . . .
    Or could you say that each option is rewarding/penalising somebody for something they have not actually done?
     
    Liutauras Vilda
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    fred rosenberger wrote:In both situations I outlined, you get a pay raise.  In both situations, your raise is 2% + $200 if you participate, and 2% if you don't.

    So, right, in which case I earn 100$ a year, you offer me a constant pay rise regardless, which is 2%, it makes 102$ a year and since I don't want your voluntary program, I don't get those extra 200$ you offer me if I were opted in - perfectly fine. 102$ final result I end up in my pocket at the end of the year.

    Unfortunately it is not a case in Jeanne's scenario - she needs from those 102$ pay 200$ which ends up her with 98$ in her pocket. And she naturally used the word "charge" rather than "pay less" (what you imply they doing).

    And since there are at least 2 people confused about the "voluntary" term, that gives a clear indication, that its meaning here isn't a natural thing we face often, regardless whatever name you call it.

    Now we went a bit off the topic, but, reading the provided article don't understand how collecting such statistics can be called an "employee wellness". Probably would be more of that if company would buy vitamins and give them away.

    After all, I'm not good at those Rattle Snake pit topics as my view is often totally different and with minimal philosophy. So I might stop here

     
    fred rosenberger
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    Liutauras Vilda wrote:So, right, in which case I earn 100$ a year, you offer me a constant pay rise regardless, which is 2%, it makes 102$ a year and since I don't want your voluntary program, I don't get those extra 200$ you offer me if I were opted in - perfectly fine. 102$ final result I end up in my pocket at the end of the year.

    Unfortunately it is not a case in Jeanne's scenario - she needs from those 102$ pay 200$ which ends up her with 98$ in her pocket. And she naturally used the word "charge" rather than "pay less" (what you imply they doing).


    I guess I am not thinking of your salaray as being $100, but as (say) $50,000.  So a 2% raise is $1000.  Either way (in my scenario), you get $51,000 next year, or $51,200 next year. The math is very different depending on your income.

    fbr
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Paweł Baczyński wrote:It is not the same.

    If we agree I will do Y for X and you'll pay me X (or +200 if I join some stupid program), that's fine.

    If we agree I will do Y for X and you'll pay me X-200 if I don't join some stupid program, that's just outrageous.

    It's worded as the former. I used the word "cost" and "charge" because I view both scenarios as a cost. It's not coming out of my salary. It's coming out of the amount I pay for health insurance. Either way my paycheck is $X lower. This distinction isn't my concern here.
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Henry Wong wrote:
    To be fair, the United States is pretty sedentary -- plus we also have high obesity among its citizens. This puts stress on health care, and of course, companies that must pay for it.

    In a way, I agree with the policy. What I don't agree with are the evasiveness of it though.

    My employer has a table tennis table and I play regularly. This is a voluntary health benefit that gets us to be less sedentary. I don't find that intrusive. Whereas I consider my health data to be private.
     
    Jesper de Jong
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    fred rosenberger wrote:i'm arguing not because I believe this, but becuase i find it interesting. 
    Jesper de Jong wrote:your employer might decide not to promote you to a higher level because your heart is sensitive to stress and they don't want to take the risk of you getting a heart condition.

    Couldn't that work the opposite way, too?  We know you are NOT predisposed to a heart condition, so we're more likely to promote you into a stressful job.  Couldn't that be considered a benefit to doing this sort of thing?

    That would still be just as wrong and unfair. People should be judged on their merits, not on how their genes happen to be.
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    Jesper de Jong wrote:Couldn't that work the opposite way, too?  We know you are NOT predisposed to a heart condition, so we're more likely to promote you into a stressful job.  Couldn't that be considered a benefit to doing this sort of thing?

    That would still be just as wrong and unfair. People should be judged on their merits, not on how their genes happen to be.
    Agreed.

    I also worry that if it becomes common to share employee wellness information with employers, opting out is like a sign saying you have something to hide.
     
    fred rosenberger
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    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote: opting out is like a sign saying you have something to hide.

    Do you think that pleading the 5th implies someone is guilty?  or exercising your Miranda rights when they are arrested?

    The courts would disagree with you.
     
    Jeanne Boyarsky
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    fred rosenberger wrote:
    Jeanne Boyarsky wrote: opting out is like a sign saying you have something to hide.

    Do you think that pleading the 5th implies someone is guilty?  or exercising your Miranda rights when they are arrested?

    The courts would disagree with you.

    No to both of those things. With a $200 price difference, a good number of people choose not to opt into the voluntary program (or forget to do the screening). At a certain price point, it only becomes the people who it is really important to. And I think that is people who care a lot about privacy or people with something negative in their medical profile.
     
    Jan de Boer
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    Jesper de Jong wrote:That would still be just as wrong and unfair. People should be judged on their merits, not on how their genes happen to be.


    Should be?? People are constantly judged on how their genes happen to be. You are too. Every second of your life! Your looks for example, and how much smartness your mon and dad put in that little DNA info at conception. Yes this is unfair, but it is reality.

     
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