Form Letter —
This afternoon I got the following email from CVS:
Dear Shannon Russell,
Thank you very much for joining in this important conversation. We appreciate the opportunity to share our point of view with you.
As a pharmacy innovation company, we are relentlessly committed to helping people on their path to better health. For us, that commitment starts with our own employees. That is why, three years ago, we started giving CVS employees incentives to improve their health?a program that many companies around the country have used for over 10 years.
So this year, we made our incentive clearer, by letting employees know how much their premiums would go up if they did not get screened. Studies have shown, unequivocally, that this approach has a significantly greater impact on peoples positive health outcomes?and helps keep their premiums down.
It is important to know that the healthcare program is a voluntarily service that we offer our employees. It is also very important to understand that CVS will not see the results of these private screenings, and that they are in full compliance with health care laws, including HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). The screenings will simply help employees know their numbers?and, by extension, the steps they can take toward better health.
We are confident that, over time, our combined efforts will benefit our colleagues and their families?and, ultimately, help build healthier communities.
CVS Customer Relations
Unsatisfied with their answer, this is my response. Check out this post to find the contact information for CVS big wigs so you can send your own response. I’ll let y’all know if I hear back from anyone at CVS:
Thank you for contacting me. I have quite a few questions and I hope that you can answer them, or direct me to someone who can, so that I can pass this information along to our readers.
First of all, one of my biggest concerns is that the policy states, “Going forward, you’ll be expected not just to know your numbers – but also to take action to manage them.” Under what circumstances will action be “expected” and what is the action that employees will be expected to take? Given the information you requested, how will participation in the wellness program be determined? By BMI? Body fat? BP? Will obese employees be expected to lose weight? If so, what programs will you be subsidizing to encourage that?
Second, according to Glass Door, CVS pays it’s cashiers $8.38/hour. For a full time employee, that’s $17,430 per year, or 150% of the federal poverty line for a single person. Studies have shown, unequivocally, that the working poor have higher rates of obesity and that they face far greater obstacles to health than those who make a living wage (PDF). How do you intend to address the socio-economic issues that affect your employees’ health due to your wage policies?
Third, along those same lines, it’s well known (and thoroughly outlined in this recent Time article) that the true cost drivers of healthcare come from the providers of services and equipment, and not as much from disease treatment. If healthcare costs are forcing you to raise prices on your employees, then why not address these supplier issues first? As the largest pharmaceutical chain in the United States, surely you have leverage to negotiate prices on pharmaceutical drugs and equipment and can use that power to influence the gouging of American healthcare plans.
Fourth, will you be screening for any other health concerns besides the metabolic issues and smoking? What about the consumption of alcohol or drugs (illicit or otherwise)? Will you be helping your employees make better choices regarding their sexual health? I noticed that you are penalizing smokers if they don’t quit or join a smoking cessation program, but do not identify the financial penalty as you have for the metabolic issues. Can you tell us what the annual financial penalty would be for resistant smokers?
Finally, you say this program is voluntary, but you threaten to raise the cost of those who don’t participate in the screenings. You do not offer the option of participating in the wellness programs without the screening. There is no alternative to the disclosure of personal medical records to a third party. How can you call this “voluntary” when you are demanding personal information under threat of financial penalty? This is the first incentive program I have read about that threatens a financial penalty for non-participation, rather than a discount for participation, something which the working poor in your employ surely cannot afford. Is this your definition of “voluntary”?
There are ways to encourage health among your employees, but making CVS the Big Brother of employee health is not the way to do it. Health is a personal choice and health records are private, and should not be coerced out of your employees by any means. I hope you will clarify your program and answer the questions I have presented above. But if you continue down this path, I will continue to urge people to boycott CVS and speak out against this clear overreach of corporate authority.
Thank you for your time.