Michelle Singletary
Michelle Singletary
Columnist

Weight watching

John Raoux/AP - CVS Caremark has put its employees on notice: Disclose your weight or pay up.

CVS Caremark has put its employees on notice: Disclose your weight or pay up.

CVS employees who are enrolled in the company’s new health insurance plan are required to undergo several tests, including having their blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol checked. The new policy also requires employees to have doctors measure their body mass and weight. If the wellness screening isn’t completed by May 1, workers will be required to pay a monthly $50 fee, reports Amy Langfield, NBC Today.com contributor.

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A statement on the insurer’s Web site from Lisa Bisaccia, CVS Caremark senior vice president and chief human resources officer, says: “We’ve encouraged [our employees] to complete a wellness review or a health screening so that you know your own key healthcare numbers – your blood pressure, your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and your Body Mass Index – because plain and simple, when you know your numbers, you can take action to improve them if necessary.”

“We want to be clear that our primary concern in taking this approach is to encourage your health and well-being in a way that respects your privacy,” Bisaccia adds. “I believe that we all have an obligation to our loved ones, to our colleagues, but most importantly, to ourselves, to do all we can to improve and maintain our health.”

Deborah C. Peel, founder of Patient Privacy Rights, a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Tex., told Today.com that the requirements were coercive to the CVS employee.

In a Boston Herald report, Boston lawyer Valerie Samuels said that more companies are likely to develop similar health-screening requirements.

“Employers have been facing horrible problems with rising health insurance costs, and now we’re seeing that they are using a ‘stick’ approach to health efforts, because the voluntary programs are not making enough of a dent in the premiums,” Samuels said.

For this week’s Color of Money Question: Would you share your medical history, including your weight, to save money? Send your responses to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “Weight Watchers” in the subject line.

Teens Talk Money

Teens expect to be financially dependent on their parents for longer periods of their life, according to a survey by Junior Achievement USA sponsored by Allstate Foundation.

The study, “Teens and Adults Personal Finance Survey,” found that 18 percent of teenagers believe that they will be financially independent by age 20. Last year, the study found that 44 percent of teenagers believed they would be independent by that age. Twenty-three percent of teens said they would be independent between the ages of 25 and 27, compared with 12 percent who had that expectation in 2011.

It’s not surprising that with the economy still on the rebound, teens think they will need more time to become financially stable and self-sufficient, according to the survey.

Color of Money Chat Canceled

This week, Michelle Singletary will not be hosting her weekly live online discussion. The chats will resume Thursday, April 11, 2013.

Tax Season

The Internal Revenue Service has released a list of tax scams and schemes — coined the “Dirty Dozen.”

“This tax season, the IRS has stepped up its efforts to protect taxpayers from a wide range of schemes, including moving aggressively to combat identity theft and refund fraud,” said IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller. “The Dirty Dozen list shows that scams come in many forms during filing season. Don’t let a scam artist steal from you or talk you into doing something you will regret later.”

Here are a few things to beware this tax season, according to Forbes.com contributor Kelly Phillips Erbs.

-- Phishing. In this scam, criminals attempt to steal your financial information through the use of e-mail or a fake web site. In many cases, the bogus e-mails ask for specific personal information or install spyware or other malware on your computer for the purpose of stealing your financial and personal information.

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by e-mail to request personal or financial information, so don’t click on or respond to these kinds of e-mails. If you receive, you can report it by forwarding it to phishing@irs.gov.

-- False/Inflated Income and Expenses. Taxpayers may be encouraged to report higher income in order to maximize refundable credits. These scams are prohibited, and making false statements could result in having to repay those refunds, plus interest and penalties; in some cases, you may be criminally prosecuted.

Family Financial Fights

In a recent column, I wrote about a son who felt his parents lowered the amount he would inherit because they didn’t agree with his lifestyle.

“My gut feeling is that it’s primarily a penalty for being gay and, secondarily, because my chosen career pays more than [my sister’s], even though she and her husband are perfectly comfortable, recently built a new home, etc,” he wrote. “I have talked with my partner and he’s of the mind that I should bring it up again because it’s making me feel a little resentful.”

Does this situation sound familiar?

If so, send your story to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your full name, city and state. Be sure to put “Family Financial Fights” in the subject line. I only need your personal information if I have additional questions. Because of the sensitivity of the situation, your personal details won’t be disclosed.

Fat Flier Fee

In a recent study, “Pay-As-You-Weigh Pricing of an Air Ticket: Economics and Major Issues for Discussions and Investigations,” Bharat Bhatta, an associate professor at Sogn og Fjordane University College in Norway, argued that heavier passengers should pay more to travel.

“If we ponder for a moment, charging passengers for their air travel according to their body weight seems to be intuitive, logical and consistent with simple mathematics and economics,” Bhatta wrote.

For last week’s Color of Money Question, I asked: “What’s your opinion about the pay-as-you weigh model?”

“It is ridiculous how the airlines are trying to ‘be profitable,’ ” says Alexander Alvardo of Costa Rica. “More ridiculous [is] this kind of super consultants (such as Mr. Bhatta) that are  recommending this ‘service’ with abusive and discriminating measures.”

But Martha Korman of Boston agrees with Bhatta.

“I have had the misfortune of flying next to such a person on a cross country trip and it certainly was a miserable trip for me. They should be charged for and occupy two seats unless they can fit into the wider first class seats at first class rates,” Korman said.

“Making overweight fliers [pay more] may make sense logistically — they cause wear and tear on the seats, spilling out of their seats makes others uncomfortable, etc. Sure, whatever,” wrote Emily Muth of Alexandria, Va. “But we can’t forget that these people are human. It's humiliating and insulting to target overweight passengers to pay more because of the extra weight. Plus, do the airlines really want to get into a battle with their passengers over whether the extra weight is due to a medical reason, or what ‘tier’ of fatness they fall into and what should constitute the appropriate weight for someone? I think it’s a terrible idea, as well as a callous one. It’s humiliating and insulting to target overweight passengers to pay more because of the extra weight.”

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Follow me on Twitter at @SingletaryM, or connect with me on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleSingletary.com.

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

 
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