[telecom] On Campus, a Faculty Uprising Over Personal Data

On Campus, a Faculty Uprising Over Personal Data

By NATASHA SINGER September 14, 2013

IMPROVING health while holding down health care costs is the kind of having-your-cake-and-eating-it combination that most people can get behind. In fact, both ideas are embedded in the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act. But an uprising among faculty members at Pennsylvania State University over a new employee wellness plan is challenging at least some of the methods designed to achieve those aims.

Penn State administrators quietly introduced the plan, called "Take Care of Your Health," this summer in the deadest part of the academic calendar. But that didn't prevent some conscientious objectors from organizing a protest online and on their campuses, culminating last week in an emotionally charged faculty senate meeting. The plan, they argued, is coercive, punitive and invades university employees' privacy.

The plan requires nonunion employees, like professors and clerical staff members, to visit their doctors for a checkup, undergo several biometric tests and submit to an extensive online health risk questionnaire that asks, among other questions, whether they have recently had problems with a co-worker, a supervisor or a divorce. If they don't fill out the form, $100 a month will be deducted from their pay for noncompliance. Employees who do participate will receive detailed feedback on how to address their health issues.

At a university where some employees earn less than $50,000 annually, the faculty members contended that an $1,200 annual surcharge - or $2,400 with a spouse - for nonparticipation amounted to a strong-arm tactic. What's more, they argued, the online questionnaire required them to give intimate information about their medical history, finances, marital status and job-related stress to an outside company, WebMD Health Services, a health management firm that operates separately from the popular consumer site, WebMD.com.


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***** Moderator's Note *****

The United States is a nation of warriors, and I think our health-care systems reflect that fact: we spend billions to defeat diseases that affect children, but have long ignored pandemics (such as cancer) which decimate the older population, but don't affect those of military age.

Of course, I should have seen this coming: no sooner do we start to face the fact that we can't afford to be the world's policemen anymore, then we do an about-face and militarize health care, by dehumanizing the rank-and-file and by demanding instrusive and heavy-handed concessions that allow the system to be run by poorly trained martinets.

I don't know if our health insurance costs as much as an F-15, but the trend seems clear.

Bill Horne Moderator

Moderator's NOte Copyright (C) 2013 E. W. Horne. All Rights Reserved.

Reply to
Monty Solomon
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I wonder if it occurred to them that people will just lie. At least the sensible ones will.

Way, way, more.

Reply to
John Levine

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