Employee Health Surveys Raising Privacy Concerns
Health assessment surveys increasingly are being offered or required by employers, a move that is raising workers' concerns over privacy and discrimination, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Bill Whitmer, CEO of the Health Enhancement Research Organization, said nearly half of all large companies use surveys aimed at identifying employees with medical conditions. Whitmer said the questionnaires are popular among large employers that are self-insured because they benefit financially if workers are healthier.
The surveys typically are administered by insurers or independent companies to maintain workers' privacy, but some employees nonetheless are concerned over the confidentiality of the survey results.
Betsy Imholz, special projects director for Consumers Union, said that using health surveys "has potential for some good, but there are risks involved in terms of privacy and discrimination down the road," adding that employees' job status could be affected by their medical history.
Danna Boersma -- a spokesperson for Wellsource, which provides health-risk appraisals -- said companies are aware of penalties for violating federal medical privacy laws. However, Boersma adds that employees completing a survey "should know how data is being used" (Colliver, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/11).