A bill has been filed in the House to repeal the penalties for state employees who do not meet certain body mass index standards or who use tobacco products.
These “wellness” provisions were hastily cobbled together during the State Health Plan 2009 bailout debate. No experts were consulted in creating the legislation. Research on best practices went ignored.
The penalty for state workers using tobacco products was coupled with a provision allowing for the random testing of all public employees. Legislation gave the State Health Plan authority to take blood and breath tests to make sure none of those teachers or corrections officers were trying to sneak a nip of nicotine.
There is nothing wrong with wellness programs. There is nothing wrong with positive incentives to encourage smokers to join cessation programs or obese workers to join weight loss groups. But even these positive incentives much be designed carefully with employee input and expert advice.
Legislators should repeal the current “fat tax”. Once State Health Plan governance is straight and stable then the new administrators can design a wellness plan that is fair and effective.