What do we mean by wellness? I think most people mean including habits in their lives that make their bodies feel better. Doing things that we hope will mean we get sick less often. Taking a multivitamin, maybe. Doing some stretching.
Who could be against taking a vitamin? Or taking a nice walk? Or eating "better"?
Well, for one thing, eating well means different things for different people. Making blanket rules about food is not useful. Also, even if it was useful to make blanket rules, no one seems to be able to decide what those rules should be.
The other problem is that what should be suggestions for ways to live better have been turned into status symbols and sticks to beat people with.
There's no such thing a suggestion any more when it comes to "wellness" and "health".
Over the past decade, we have seen coercion of "health" creep into the workplace, through wellness programs, leading up to their inclusion in the Affordable Care Act.
These programs are a neo-liberal, corporate way to push more health care costs onto disliked groups- especially fat people.
Rather than addressing rising health care costs at the point where they are rising- large corporate hospitals and health insurance corporations- or moving further towards a single payer model that limits costs-- we are shifting the burden of paying for everyone's health care onto a group of people that no one will stick up for.
Employers love this. Any why wouldn't they? Most fat people are not going to suddenly become thin people, so they'll never stop saving money.
Many employers have started biometric screenings, where they can take blood samples and measure your blood pressure, in addition to your weight. There doesn't seem to be much to stop them from gathering all kinds of information on their employees, all the in name of "wellness" and prevention.
The employers say that these programs are voluntary. And if you consider paying up to $4000 in penalties to keep your medical information private from your employer- they totally are.
Can we please be honest and admit that anything that involves a $4000 charge is not voluntary at all if you're poor. Add on top of this that a lot of people are already subject to subtle and overt coercion in the office. How voluntary is a program if your boss tells you to do it?
When I saw on Shakesville that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was suing companies over their intrusive and discriminatory wellness programs, I was relieved.
Finally, I thought. Someone is going to push back on these corporations' unchecked intrusion into people's private business.
Until I found out about Senate Bill 620- the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act.
Sponsored by Senator Lamar Alexander, this bill retroactively exempts employers from medical and genetic privacy laws (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act), and the Americans with Disability Act. It goes into effect starting March 23, 2010, when the Affordable Care Act was signed.
Well, that's super weird. I am really so very surprised. *sarcasm*
Basically, Lamar Alexander is looking to prevent any other action by the EEOC by changing laws meant to protect people from invasion of privacy and discrimination to make sure that those laws don't apply to employers.
I don't think employers should be able to force people to give up medical information about themselves and their families.
Do you really think we can trust American corporations to keep your private medical information private and not use it in ways that discriminate?
No one should be forced to give their boss access to their medical history.
I started a petition on Charge.org to ask Senators that are members of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions to not allow this bill to move forward.
Please sign my petition. And thank you.