January 27th, 2014
Editor’s note: One of the most-read Health Affairs articles last year was “Wellness Incentives In The Workplace: Cost Savings Through Cost Shifting To Unhealthy Workers,” by Jill R. Horwitz,.Brenna D. Kelly, and John E. DiNardo. The article engendered a Health Affairs Blog discussion between the authors and Ron Goetzel. (See here, here, here, and here.) Below is another installment of that discussion, from Ron Goetzel.
I have had several back and forth conversations with Professors DiNardo and Horwitz. I won’t bore the readers with a re-hash of old arguments. We don’t need to re-litigate the basic premises of our debate, from either point of view. Those interested in following that discussion can review our previous posts.
I would, however, like to respond to a central point made by DiNardo and Horwitz that employers should not interfere with the private lives of employees. I agree with this assertion to a certain point. It should be noted that many employers do “interfere” with employees’ private lives by not allowing them to smoke on premises, requiring them to wear seat belts when driving company vehicles, mandating that they wear protective gear (hard hats, work boots, gloves) at construction sites, and so forth.
Certainly, an employer cannot and should not tell workers what to eat or how much to exercise. However, an employer can provide guidance, education, skill building, and support programs to workers who wish to eat healthy foods and become more physically active. That, in my mind, is not interfering in workers’ lives but rather supporting their efforts at leading a healthy lifestyle.Read the rest of this entry »