Is CVS Taking Heat for the New Federal Health Care Law?

Posted on March 24, 2013 by Kathy Hoekstra

Tactic can turn employees against employers

CVS Pharmacy likely irked a couple hundred thousand of its employees when it announced a new health plan that requires the workers to cough up even more personal health information or pay a price:

“Rhode Island-based CVS Caremark, which has 200,000 employees, told all workers who use the company insurance plan to have a doctor determine their weight, height, body fat, blood pressure and glucose and fasting lipid levels by May 1.”

As if that’s not bad enough, the Boston Herald reports that “workers must sign a form saying the screening is voluntary, and that the insurer can give test results to WebMD Health Services Group. The firm provides health management programs and benefit support to CVS.”

Failure to sign up for this “wellness review” will cost workers another $50 a month for their health coverage. That’s $600 a year. And the penalty is not a choice.

There’s good reason to suspect that CVS is implementing this policy as a direct result of ObamaCare. But as far as anyone can tell, the drugstore giant has neither confirmed nor denied this conclusion, even though it has been very loudly trumpeted in the ensuing avalanche of media coverage.

There are two people who understand that this equivocation by CVS is only making things worse: JCA and Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh.

Speaking on Fox Business News about the payroll tax changes, Marcus said because employees simply don’t have the right information about the new health care and tax laws, they are quick to blame their employers, rather than the real perpetrators of bad policy:

“Speaking to small businesses, they all tell me the same thing. When January 1st came around and that first week of paychecks came in, and they got the benefit — this benefit of having less money in their payrolls because of the tax increase, you know who they blame? They blame the employer. Nobody blamed the administration.”

Limbaugh expounded on Marcus’ remarks, correctly predicting the consequences to business owners who fail to be honest with their employees such as CVS:

“They may end up blaming their bosses. Because it’s not Obama making ’em go get a checkup or enroll in an addiction program because they smoke. It’s not Obama, as far as they’re concerned, it’s not Obama making them measure their body fat. It’s management at CVS. And CVS, they’re not gonna know how to deal with it. These management people don’t know how to deal with this kind of stuff. They’re not gonna know how to market to their own employees.”

Wellness incentives for employees is not a new concept. And while it can be a useful tool to save money on health insurance, it should not be used as an excuse by CVS or any other businesses to stick to their timid guns and ignore the dangerous ramifications of new federal health care mandates. This will only pit employees against employers, and let government off the hook for its own bad behavior.