Diary

Big Business May Pull Obamacare Support

Seems it’s time for another winter of discontent about Obamacare.

Leading U.S. CEOs, angered by the Obama administration’s challenge to certain “workplace wellness” programs, are threatening to side with anti-Obamacare forces unless the government backs off, according to people familiar with the matter.

Major U.S. corporations have broadly supported President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform despite concerns over several of its elements, largely because it included provisions encouraging the wellness programs.

The programs aim to control healthcare costs by reducing smoking, obesity, hypertension and other risk factors that can lead to expensive illnesses. A bipartisan provision in the 2010 healthcare reform law allows employers to reward workers who participate and penalize those who don’t.

But recent lawsuits filed by the administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), challenging the programs at Honeywell International and two smaller companies, have thrown the future of that part of Obamacare into doubt.

In the first place, why is the Obama Administration filing lawsuits against its own law? Okay, that’s a rhetorical question. As [mc_name name=’Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’P000197′ ] famously said, they had to pass it to find out what was in it, and what was in it appears to have violated previously existing law.

More from the story about exactly what the EEOC is suing about:

Obamacare allows financial incentives for workers taking part in workplace wellness programs of up to 50 percent of their monthly premiums, deductibles, and other costs. That translates into hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars in extra annual costs for those who do not participate.

Typically, participation means filling out detailed health questionnaires, undergoing medical screenings, and in some cases attending weight-loss or smoking-cessation programs.

One of the arguments presented in the lawsuit against three employers is that requiring medical testing violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That 1990 law, according to employment-law attorney Joseph Lazzarotti of Jackson Lewis P.C. in Morristown, N.J., largely prohibits requiring medical tests as part of employment.

“You can’t make medical inquiries unless it’s consistent with job-necessity, or part of a voluntary wellness program,” he said.

The lawsuits are based on the view that it is no longer voluntary if employees face up to $4,000 in penalties for non-participation, loss of insurance or even their jobs.

They have a point there, and it’s backed up by the Obamacare mandate itself. There are fines (“taxes” in John Roberts’ world) for not participating, thus it’s not voluntary. As a person with a disability, though I largely disagree with the ADA, in this case I agree with it, there is no reason I should have to fill out a questionnaire or go see a company doctor in order to avoid huge extra costs. And since Obamacare isn’t voluntary, neither are the wellness programs it mandates.

The ironic part here is, those provisions were in Obamacare when the CEOs supported it. Why didn’t they — or their legal departments — actually, you know, read the bill before deciding to support it?

Oh, right. They trusted big government.