For cheaper health insurance, step on the scale

March 22, 2013 at 10:17 AM ET

It’s well known that U.S. medical costs are more than double that of other developed countries, which is why, in a bid to lower insurance premiums, companies encourage their employees to be healthy.

Exercise, they urge workers, eat fresh fruits and vegetables, limit fast food and – above all – don’t smoke.

Sometimes this encouragement takes the form of a wellness plan – maybe offering $25 gift certificates to those who meet personal goals – but some companies take a more aggressive approach. This week, CVS Caremark made waves when it told employees to reveal their weight – or pay a monthly $50 penalty.

The drug retailing company is not alone, and as many TODAY readers pointed out – is mild compared to what they’ve gone through to lower health care premiums. Dozens said they had to give blood samples, although not all were upset by the requirement.

“My company already does something similar to this and I don't see the big deal,” said one reader. “Technically it isn't mandatory. You can either submit the basic info (BMI, glucose, cholesterol, blood pressure) and pay a discounted monthly rate, or not submit anything and pay the full monthly rate. It's just a discount for submitting the info – just like for my car insurance I get a discount for submitting my mileage and for being a ‘good driver.’"

One reader, self-described as 50 and “in relatively good health,” wrote: “We had to give information of weight, height etc., then the ‘plan administrators’ came back and told us what is wrong with us. … They even had a pedometer tethered to my hip for over 3 months to monitor my physical activity.”

But many readers lambasted CVS for invasion of privacy.

Wrote one: “This is a MASSIVE invasion of privacy that is headed towards your employer tell you what and how much food you can eat, the number of beers you can consume and what activity, i.e. motorcycling, rock climbing or anything that might even remotely be considered risky.”

One reader was sarcastic, noting that CVS sells cigarettes: “I wonder if CVS will eliminate their candy display and other unhealthy items they carry?”

Other readers argued that people need tough love: “It seems like the only way to do this anymore is to hit people where it matters ... in their wallet.”