Corporate Wellness are all the rage, and causing rage as well.     (Photo by Pat Greenhouse/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

How Obamacare Allows Companies to Punish Fat Employees

A 2013 report by ConscienHealth, a nonprofit, found that 16 percent of employers require wellness program participation, including medical screenings, for access to full health benefits. Of these, 67 percent set goals for weight and/or other health indicators linked to obesity. Nearly 90 percent of companies with 50 employees or more offer wellness incentives, up from 57 percent in 2009.

Penalizing employees for pounds is perfectly legal, too. Under provisions in the Affordable Care Act, 2014, employers can charge employees an extra 30 percent of the total cost (employer and employee portions) of individual or family health benefits coverage if they don’t meet specific wellness goals, including body mass index (BMI). This is up from 20 percent, which was imposed in 2006 and permitted under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations (HIPPAA). Prior to 2006, employees couldn’t be penalized for missing a wellness target. “You could offer them nominal incentives like participating in a class, but you never could penalize them for actually smoking or not losing weight, or having high blood pressure,” said Karen Pollitz, a senior fellow at the Kaiser Family Foundation, in Washington, DC.

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