More and more employers are instituting voluntary health / fitness programs for their employees in an attempt to reduce rising insurance costs.

In the U.S., the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) allows employers to adjust benefits and insurance premiums based on whether their employees have met the standards of a corporate wellness program. The new rules apply to group health plans and went into effect last July.

While the new rules prohibit discrimination, they do allow employers to offer rewards to nonsmokers, employees with a LDL cholesterol level under 200 or a BMI below 25.

Here is where it gets a little bit 1984.

While employers can’t tell an obese employee to lose weight or a smoker to quit, they can require the heavy employee to participate in nutrition classes and the smoker to track their smoking habits.

Usually these programs are administered and monitored by a third party company. This company’s responsibilities would include assessing the health risk of the employees, helping them set goals, providing the wellness services and monitoring their efforts/results.

They are also the judge of whether or not the employee achieved their wellness goals. If the employee met their particular goals, they would receive their wellness incentive (usually a reduction in their insurance contribution). If they didn’t, there would be a financial penalty.

So what do you think?

Is this a good thing or a bad thing?