Employee Wellness Programs Face Opposition From Unions
The California Nurses Association and other labor unions in California are working to block attempts by hospitals and other employers to enroll workers in wellness programs, citing concerns about privacy and financial penalties for non-enrollment, the East Bay Business Times reports.
Employers argue that wellness programs can reduce workers' insurance premiums, but unions raise concerns with the rules of some of the programs.
CNA currently is disputing a program at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center because the hospital is making participation in its wellness program a condition for no employee premiums in its PPO network. The union also contends that a health assessment survey required for enrollment is "an invasion of privacy."
Efren Garza, a member of CNA's negotiating team at the hospital, said the union is "concerned about the information being inadvertently released and that it would follow us in other employment."
CNA also has joined other labor unions in reaching a deal with the University of California to exempt 70,000 union members from the university's employee wellness program.
The nurses' union maintains that it does not oppose wellness promotion but that it is against financial penalties for not participating and the mandatory health assessment surveys (Hogarth, East Bay Business Times, 1/21).
Meanwhile, some employers, including Safeway and Hewlett-Packard, are providing on-site fitness centers in an effort to improve employees' health and possibly reduce health care costs, the Business Times reports.
Costs for building such facilities vary, depending on the amenities offered and whether employees pay membership fees. Proponents say the fitness centers provide companies with a good return on investment by leading to a healthier work force.
Terrie Dixon, a wellness and fitness center program manager for HP, said that "with health care costs rising and companies struggling to provide health care benefits to their employees, it just makes good business sense to incorporate something that says you value that employee, which is your biggest asset" (Kincaid, East Bay Business Times, 1/21).