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To the Mattresses —

March 20, 2013

Armchair Activistm


I assume you’ve seen by now that CVS is forcing employees to disclose their weight, height, body fat and blood pressure. Those who don’t comply will have to pay an additional $600 per year for “health coverage.”.

The company calls it a “health screening and wellness review” and will foot the bill for the associated doctor visits, according to the report.

But employees must agree to sign a form claiming the screening is voluntary, according to the paper, and allow the insurer to pass the results to the firm handling its health program.

The move is being hailed as necessary to deal with the medical costs associated with obesity. But if that’s the case, then tell CVS to address the entire problem with healthcare costs, and not just the sliver their employees are responsible for. Encourage them to read “Bitter Pill” from Time about the real drivers of healthcare costs in the United States. Or if you don’t have a subscription, this Health Beat post by Maggie Mahar explains it very well.

Emails after the fold. This will be on the front page for the foreseeable future.

But first, a bit more on the plan:

The company calls it a “health screening and wellness review” and will foot the bill for the associated doctor visits, according to the report.

But employees must agree to sign a form claiming the screening is voluntary, according to the paper, and allow the insurer to pass the results to the firm handling its health program.

So they’re forced to turn over their medical records or pay a $600 annual penalty, then sign a form saying they volunteered for this program? Nice.

CVS released the following statement:

CVS Caremark is committed to providing medical coverage and healthcare programs for our colleagues and privacy is rigorously protected, consistent with HIPAA regulations. All personal health data from these screenings are collected and reviewed by a third-party administrator that supports the CVS Caremark Wellness Program, and this data is not shared with CVS Caremark — rather it is designed to help employees make the best decisions about their own healthcare.

I am 100% in favor of workplace wellness programs that you can opt into, but I am vehemently opposed to a mandatory program you can only opt out of with a hefty financial penalty. Employees do not need CVS to help them make the best decisions about their own healthcare. Especially if they’re not helping ALL employees make the best decisions about their own healthcare as well.

That’s right, bring in the smokers, the tokers, the drinkers, the sexually reckless. Let’s open all medical records to CVS so they can help EVERYBODY make the best decisions.

Whether you think this is either a brilliant idea or terrible one, please sign this petition and give one of our buddies at CVS a ringy dingy.

Either this employer over-reach is applied equitably to the personal healthcare decisions of all employees, and not just the fatties, or it’s not applied at all.


Smoking is part of the new plan as well, Ragen informed me, but the info in that article I found more troubling, not less.

“Going forward, you’ll be expected not just to know your numbers – but also to take action to manage them,” the CVS policy states.

“There are no penalties based on the results of a wellness screening,” a CVS spokesman told NBCNews via email. “Choosing not to have a screening will result in a $50/month increase.”

While many employers have been pushing its workers to get healthier, it’s usually through incentives rather than penalties. “This is about as coercive and blunt as I’ve ever seen,” said Dr. Deborah C. Peel, the founder of Patient Privacy Rights, a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas.

“Many employers want to do something for their workers, but very few of them are stupid enough to say give us the information and sign this form and say it’s voluntary,” Peel said.

Smokers working for CVS are also warned: “You must either be tobacco-free by May 1, 2014, or participate in the WebMD tobacco cessation program.” Defiant smokers can avoid penalties if they are healthy enough in other categories specified by the company.

First they mandate that they have to get a wellness screening and then they say they expect employees to “take action.” Is that a code word for weight loss? This is an incredible breach of privacy and unless CVS is now taking over as their employees’ primary care provider, it is beyond the pale for this program to continue.

The good news is that on a poll on that article, 75% of the people think it’s an invasion of privacy.

Larry  Merlo

Helena Foulks
Chief Marketing Officer

Erin Pensa
Manager, Public Relations

Eileen Howard Dunn
VP, Corporate Communications and Community Relations

Carolyn Castel
Director, Corporate Communications

Mike DeAngelis
Director, Public Relations

Christine Cramer
Director, Public Relations
Phone: 401-770-3317,,,,,,

16 Comments leave one →
  1. The Real Cie permalink
    March 20, 2013 11:53 pm

    They have us do this bullshit screening where I work. We’re penalized if we don’t do it, though we don’t have to pay any extra per month for “negative results.” My assessment showed up as a “poor health risk,” and I know it’s almost 100% because of my BMI. I do have hypertension, but it’s controlled by medication. A lot of people my age (48) have hypertension, regardless of size. It makes me extremely angry. I’m no worse of a “health risk” than any other generally healthy 48 year old of whatever size. I work out and I eat okay–not great, not bad, but okay. Just like a lot of other freaking busy stressed out people in this world.
    It isn’t good enough to show up and do your job and not call in all the time. You have to look like a fucking supermodel while doing so.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      March 20, 2013 11:58 pm

      I use so little of my paid time off that the company actually forced me to “use it or lose it.” So much for my fat ass costing the company a shit ton of money. I go to the doctor every three months for blood draws for my hypothyroidism.
      I’m just waiting for some asshat to say that hypothyroidism is caused by being obese, even though I first presented with it when I was in my teens, hovering around 120 pounds, and bulimic.

  2. Fab@54 permalink
    March 20, 2013 11:56 pm

    Kee-rist. CVS is on my shit list now. I stopped going there for my scripts because they are so over priced (I had no health insurance or prescription plan). Now I will make it a point not to shop there at all for anything! Idiots.

  3. vesta44 permalink
    March 21, 2013 12:05 am

    Coercion is not volunteering – coercion is being told “do this or else this will happen” and the “this” that will happen is not a good thing. That’s similar to what happened to me when I was 19 – I was sick, missed 3 days of work, went back to work and was told I no longer had a job there. I said “Oh, I’m fired, then?” I was told “No, you’re not fired, you just no longer have a job here.” Sorry, sounded to me like I was fired. When I went back to pick up my final paycheck, I was told that if I didn’t sign papers stating that I voluntarily resigned, they wouldn’t give me my paycheck. That wasn’t coercion at all, was it. Come to find out, they thought that if I signed papers saying I “voluntarily resigned”, I wouldn’t be able to draw unemployment. They were wrong. I filed, was denied, appealed, and got it because I wasn’t the first employee they had done this to, but I was the first who fought them on denying my unemployment. I explained to the adjudicator what had happened and that it wasn’t a voluntary resignation at all. He agreed with me, and approved my unemployment compensation claim.
    I’m betting that if employees wanted to sue on the grounds that being told “you will do thus and so, or you will pay an additional $50 a month for your health care insurance” is coercion, they just might win. Especially when the information CVS wants is none of their business – it’s between the employee, their doctor, and the insurance company. CVS has no right to that information – it’s not necessary to the operation of their business, it won’t improve their business (and if it’s publicized enough, it may actually hurt business), and it certainly isn’t going to improve employee morale or health (can we say “stress”, anyone?).
    As long as an employee shows up for work on time, every day, and does their work in a satisfactory manner, their health is not their employer’s business. And where does this stop? If they require it of their employees, when are they going to decide that this “wellness” plan also applies to employees’ spouses and children, if they are covered under the employees’ health care insurance? This kind of bullshit is what happens when society equates thinness, and only thinness, with health and the medical community agrees.

    • The Real Cie permalink
      March 21, 2013 12:12 pm

      Glad you stood up for yourself. These companies are always hoping people will be too kowtowed to do so, so they can keep on with their bullshit.

  4. March 21, 2013 9:02 am

    The BCBS my work uses does this too. In order to get a discount — I think it’s like ten bucks a week — on our premiums, we fill out a form and get calls from a “lifestyle coach” every so often.

    Erm . . . no. My “lifestyle” doesn’t need coaching. It could use two more hours in a day and a work schedule that doesn’t grind up against my body’s default day-night cycle. It could *really* use an insurance carrier that remembers its place is to administer the services for which I and my employer pay.

    More to the point, my Evil Overlords are entitled to know a lot about me, but the particulars of my health are not their business. Remember when allowing employers to test their employees for drugs was supposed to fix the drug problem?

    • The Real Cie permalink
      March 21, 2013 12:11 pm

      At least the “lifestyle coach” is still actually voluntary for us. If they weren’t, said Lifestyle Coach would be hearing me tell them to tell their Satanic Overlords (I do like that word, Overlords) that my life is none of their business. They would not find me to be very cooperative or receptive of their sage wisdom.

  5. lifeonfats permalink
    March 21, 2013 5:47 pm

    I posted this response on Ragen’s post, with a little editing:

    I just got back from CVS this evening too! It’s right down the road from my home, hell I can walk there and back. I get my prescriptions there and this is so frustrating. Wellness is automatically being used as a code word for “weight loss” and it shouldn’t be at all. Wellness is overall health, including mental, emotional, and non-weight physical health. It’s not just a number on a scale.

    CVS should worry more about their employees providing good customer service and filling medicines properly, instead of what waist size they are and forcing them to participate in a program that should be a choice. Shame on them!

    I’m also adding that my grandfather, who has Type II diabetes, has to send in to Caremark a log with his blood sugar numbers in order to keep getting his supplies, even though I ask CVS to submit the claims for them through Medicare first. How is this, as well as this ridiculous new policy for workers, not getting questioned by HIPAA?

    Looks like I may have to move my prescription to Rite-Aid or my grocery store…

  6. JennyRose permalink
    March 21, 2013 6:41 pm

    I live close to a CVS and for the most part I get good service. I am guessing that this glorious health plan of theirs only applies to full time employees. Many of the clerks at my store who are not pharmacy affiliated are part time and presumably get no benefits. One woman is a single mom who works 2 jobs to make ends meet. When is she supposed to spend time on wellness when she has 2 jobs and a child. Those are her priorities and I respect them. Why should she have to infringe on her limited free time?

  7. violetyoshi permalink
    March 21, 2013 11:00 pm

    Just posted a link to your petition here, it’s a link to a related article on Now you’re sure to get lots of signatures!

  8. March 24, 2013 10:30 am

    That is awful. Wtf??!!!

  9. Tiva permalink
    March 24, 2013 7:45 pm

    This is in violation of the HPAA act and the constitution.

  10. March 26, 2013 10:33 am

    I have emailed them as well. This is WRONG and if we as Americans don’t step up and do something it is a trend that will spread. Whether my weight is politically correct or not, it’s my weight and my business. Thanks for sharing.

  11. violetyoshi permalink
    March 26, 2013 10:46 am

    That link to Maggie Mahar’s post should have a trigger warning. There is a lot of dehumanizing anti-fat language in there, despite being about fat people not costing healthcare more money. Such as referring to fat people as “the obese”, and suggesting fat people don’t live long.

    I understand the point of the article is that fat people don’t cost any more health care money than thin people, I’m just tired of it being laced with talking about fat people as if they’re another species. I’m also tired that people seem to not understand why calling fat people obese is worse than just calling them fat. Maybe there should be a post on that, since it seems people don’t see that referring to fat people as “the obese” is no different than referring to other marginalized people with prejudiced language.

    • March 26, 2013 12:11 pm

      While I agree that referring to fat people as “the obese” is troubling, I still refer to “obesity” in the context of research and analysis surrounding BMI. “Obesity” means someone with a BMI over 30, so when I’m writing about obesity, I am speaking specifically about this demographic. Would I prefer a different term? Absolutely. But if we’re going to discuss the science of being fat, then we are stuck with the terms used in academic circles.

      That being said, I don’t trigger warning links unless they’re absolutely egregious violations of the most important triggers, particularly eating disorders and dieting. The trigger warnings on this site are more of a guideline to help people avoid subjects they aren’t interested in, but if you’re already reading a post on healthcare or dieting and I link to an external source, there’s a good chance they’re going to use that academic or triggering terminology. I apologize if this is not sufficient, but if I tagged every problematic link, nearly every link would have some kind of trigger.


      • violetyoshi permalink
        March 26, 2013 5:07 pm

        Thanks Shannon, unfortunately you’re right.

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