Penn's State's new Health Care policies, which have been rolled out quietly in the middle of the summer, include an excessively invasive "Take Care of Your Health" plan that forces employees, by imposing a massive, $1200 a year surcharge, to submit to poorly and unprofessionally mass-organized blood tests and "biometric screenings." Included in this mandate is an additional mandate, requiring all employees and their spouses/SSDPs, to fill out an incredibly invasive "Wellness Profile" that, if taken, immediately shares ALL of the person's private medical information with WebMD, a third-party agency with a far from comforting record in the area of privacy. Not long after this "initiative" was initiated, two new surcharges were announced: One directed at employees who self-identify as smokers, the other to employees with spouses covered by the plan who are presently eligible for coverage by their own employer. Each and every one of these policies-raises serious questions related to patient privacy and medical ethics. But perhaps most importantly, their punitive character raises fundamental concerns regarding the relationship between Penn State as an employer and its employees, who might have expected better after enduring the challenges of the last two years. In light of these concerns, not to mention the almost complete lack of appropriate consultation with representative bodies across the university, we ask, indeed, we demand, that implementation be IMMEDIATELY stopped, or at the very least delayed, so that further consultation with the employees and their representatives can begin.
Stop the New Penn State "Wellness" Program and Surcharges.
We the undersigned call on the Penn State President, Office of Human Resources, and Board of Trustees to cancel the university's new “Wellness” initiative and the new monthly surcharges for smokers and spouses.
In contrast to the reward-based initiatives adopted by other institutions, which encourage, and in some cases, reward employees who take positive health steps (as represented by the Health Matters "Know Your Numbers" program), the Office of Human Resources at Penn State has adopted what can only be called a harsh and coercive punishment system, in essence requiring employees to submit to intrusive questions and comply with medical procedures, or else pay significant fines.
We are also concerned by the way this program has been launched, not all at once but in a series of Penn State news items, released during the middle of the summer, when many employees are away, making it likely that many have yet to learn the details of the program, let alone respond and ask questions. This mid-summer timing has also made it difficult (in many cases, impossible) to get in touch with many of the key administrators, as well as our representatives and officers in the University Faculty Senate.
Much more troubling than these immediate problems of communication, however, are the policies themselves, which require all members of the faculty and staff to put their private health information into the hands of parties other than the employees and their doctors. While the university has claimed that the data collected from the questionnaire will not be shared with any university officials, as required by law, the Vice-President for Human Resources stated during the roll-out of the program that information from the questionnaire would be used to impose yet another surcharge, on employees who smoke. (NB: This statement has since been "clarified," to the effect that smokers will asked to "self-identify" directly to the University during the sign-up phase for the new program, which hardly sounds any better.)
Finally, the new spousal surcharge is divisive, since it pits those who have spouses covered by the university's health plan--a benefit that was presented as an incentive when many of us were considering Penn State's offer of employment--against those who are either unemployed (by choice or by circumstances) and those that happen to be married or in a SSDP with another PSU employee.
We the undersigned request, indeed, we demand, that the Office of Human Resources put an immediate end to the implementation of these programs, and open a conversation with their constituents (including both faculty and staff) in order to develop more equitable and less intrusive strategies for containing health care costs.
Concerned Employees, Alumni, and Friends of Penn State University