Legislators and state officials should get out the mouth swabs and step on the scale

The State Health Plan is sending out notices today and tomorrow informing state employees about the draconian and shockingly invasive new “wellness initiatives” that are sure to cause confusion and outrage.

The Health Access Coalition has objected to these provisions from the time they were first introduced and we tried to get them stripped from the bill. But lawmakers were persistent and felt that sneaky state employees should be treated like children and undergo random smoking and weight tests.

As State Health Plan officials explain in this WUNC story, they will soon send teams to work sites to conduct surprise saliva swabs and weight tests. The State Health Plan said publicly that it would hold forums to discuss the new initiatives. No such forums were held.

So I suggest that legislators and state officials who are covered by the State Health Plan step up and be the first to volunteer for mouth swabs and weight tests. The General Assembly voted for these ridiculous provisions. The governor signed the bill. So lets see them jump on the scale.

I’m guessing that the legislature and governor’s office will not be among the work sites chosen for random testing — just a hunch.

Before these tests are conducted every state employee, and everyone who cares about the quality of our state services, should ask their governor and legislator why he or she thinks that random mouth swabs are a fair way to treat workers. Someone needs to stop a State Health Plan that has gone completely off the rails.

18 Comments

  1. Kimberly

    September 17, 2009 at 11:22 am

    This screams of discrimination to me and should never be allowed. So if a state employee smokes or is a little bit overweight, which can be caused by a medical condition or is also a personal choice issue, then they can be singled out and discriminated against. Thankfully I am not a state employee, I would probably wind up quitting my job the first time it was demanded that I be weighed and checked for smoking to keep my job or keep my benefits.

  2. Adam Linker

    September 17, 2009 at 11:25 am

    It is discriminatory, but the State Health Plan includes this jewel on its website:

    “In order to implement its comprehensive wellness initiative, the State of North Carolina has elected to exempt the State Health Plan from the HIPAA rules prohibiting discrimination against individual participants and beneficiaries based on health status related factors, including health status, medical condition (physical and mental illnesses), claims experience, receipt of health care, insurability, and disability.”

    This move is allowed because the State Health Plan is self-insured.

  3. Kimberly

    September 17, 2009 at 11:47 am

    How can the state allow an exemption to a Federal Law? This means that the State Health Plan (BCBS) has free reign to openly discriminate for any reason which should be a clear violation of Federal Laws. I just met an attorney for CF patients and families on Saturday that said Federal Law ALWAYS trumps state law. I would hope that many state employees get good attorneys and persue legal action. The state has set a very scary precedent which should never be allowed. The right wingers talk about Health Reform as being socialistic, they need to look at this exemption first and maybe they would realize that our current system desperately needs changed. The fact that the state has excluded the State Health Plan from HIPAA, and from the exemption statement also from the ADA, shows that too many legislators are in the pocket of BCBS. Why else would legislators remove a business entity from all liability from violation of the moral laws such as HIPAA and ADA? Discrimination of any kind by anyone or any entity should never ever be allowed let alone be state approved. Where does this end, will they start raising rates because someone lives in the wrong end of town, or they aren’t as intelligent as the “norm”, or because they aren’t blond haired and blue eyed?

  4. Adam Linker

    September 17, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Federal law apparently allows the state to exempt its plan from HIPAA because it self-insures.

  5. gregflynn

    September 17, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    How is a saliva test going to distinguish between various smoked & smokeless tobacco products and also nicotine replacement treatments?

  6. Louie

    September 17, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    and the new H1N1 swine flu vaccine will be optional?

  7. Louie

    September 17, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    state employees are already using e-cigs inside undetected

  8. Adam Searing

    September 17, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Maybe we should complete state employee humiliation and cut their salaries too. Oh wait, we already did that.

  9. Alex

    September 17, 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Discrimination started in Health Insurance with Mental Health, then pre-existing conditions, chronic illness; now smoking and weight. Those who think they will not be discriminated against sooner or later are fooling themselves. This is why we need health care reform.

    It was just as discriminatory when the State Plan doubled all the out of pocket cost so those with chronic illness, such as myself ,with Asthma and Multiple Sclerosis can no longer afford to see Specialists, which we have to, on a regular basis.

  10. Take Off To The Great White North

    September 17, 2009 at 5:10 pm

    do you think Canadian public sector workers would put up with these desperate attempts to micro-manage health risks for one second

  11. Angry state employee!

    September 18, 2009 at 10:38 am

    I cannot believe this Big Brother crap. The State Health Plan needs to be taken out back and shot in the head.

  12. Esther

    September 18, 2009 at 2:40 pm

    I hereby serve notice that I, a 25 year state employee, will flatly refuse to comply should the “white coats” come to take buccal swabs and weigh me. The sheer embarrassment of such a scene
    just boggles the mind. Come on. I dare you! I smell a lawsuit of epic proportions acomin’!

  13. AdamL

    September 18, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    I think that’s what it’s going to take to kill these insulting policies.

  14. Jack Jolson

    September 18, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I will sign on…think we can get a grant and file suit???

  15. dwain

    September 18, 2009 at 10:14 pm

    where do I sign up. my wife is a state employee of 15 years and does not deserve this treatment. i propose that everyone contact there local representative and see to it that they,also, are checked to see how they meet this ridiculous standard(law). they try to set standards for the backbone of NC.how can you set a standard if you are not willing to LEAD by this. I think pressure on your local rep. with maybe the news media is a surefire way to speak volumes.

  16. [...] at the State Health Plan are now telling everyone that its draconian wellness initiatives will save $13 million in the first [...]

  17. Sophie

    September 28, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    My question is how much will it COST the State Health Plan to take these ‘draconian wellness’ measures? Probably a whole lot more than they are saving! Addtional supplies, time, and personnel to jump out of the bushes at state employees. Gonna cost ‘em! And that doesn’t even count the lawsuits!

    So, good luck with that one!

  18. wedding

    April 14, 2010 at 12:26 am