I’ve written on a number of occasions about a Safeway health and wellness program touted by lawmakers in both parties — including President Obama — which has reduced the grocery store chain’s health care costs by creating financial incentives to encourage employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. The program involves offering discounted insurance premiums to those who avoid smoking and maintain a certain range of weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure. The program, as well as similar efforts, was in danger because of a provision in the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee legislation that would bar insurers from charging individuals differently based on health status. However, just a few minutes ago, Sens. Tom Harkin and Judd Gregg announced a deal to amend the bill to allow for employers to vary the price of a premium by 30 percent, and 50 percent if they get authorization from the Secretary of Health and Human Services (it is capped at 20 percent under current law). The amendment easily passed by the committee. We’ll have to see if this provision stays as the HELP bill gets merged together with other bills currently floating through Congress.
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