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Benefits/ERISA

Legal Battle Likely Over New Fat Fines

Posted Jul 30, 2007 4:30 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Once upon a time, American workers at the same company all had the same major medical coverage. No more--and that's especially true at some companies that are now requiring employees to pay what amount to fat fines.

A growing number of companies are starting to impose extra monthly fees for health insurance on workers who smoke or can't meet employer-designated weight, blood pressure or cholesterol standards, reports the Los Angeles Times. However, some experts question whether this is legal, and predict courtroom battles.

"A key protection in the Americans with Disabilities Act is that employers can't discriminate against employees based on their health status," says J.D. Piro of the Hewitt Associates healthcare law division. "This is a fight that's likely going to be dealt with in the courts."

On the other hand, new rules adopted In January by the U.S. Department of Labor to implement the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 says employers can use financial incentives in wellness programs, the Times notes.

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