According to OECD predictions, exceeding budgets on health spending remains an issue for OECD countries. Maintaining today's healthcare systems and funding future medical advances will be difficult without major reforms. Public expenditure on health and long-term care in OECD countries is set to increase from around 6 percent of GDP today to almost 9 percent in 2030 and 14 percent by 2060. Moreover, in 2011 a study of the World Economic Forum estimated that the global economic impact of the five leading chronic diseases -- cancer, diabetes, mental illness, heart disease, and respiratory disease -- could reach $47 trillion over the next 20 years. The estimated cumulative output loss caused by the illnesses, which together already kill more than 36 million people a year and are predicted to kill tens of millions more in the future, represents around 4 percent of annual global GDP over the coming two decades, the study said.
Employer wellness programs can gather medical information from employees and spouses -- so long as financial incentives or penalties don't exceed 30 percent of the annual cost for an individual in the company's group health plan, according to final rules issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Monday. Although such penalties or incentives could run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars, the programs are considered voluntary -- and therefore legal, the commission said. The rules seek to ensure "wellness programs actually promote good health and are not just used to collect or sell sensitive medical information about employees and family members or to impermissibly shift health insurance costs to them," the EEOC said. But the final rules drew immediate concern from some groups. Jennifer Mathis, director of programs for the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, says the new rule rolls back protections in existing law.
Fitbit started life in 2007, with its founders touting a circuit board in a box as a way to lure investors. After selling its vision to consumers -- it managed to convince 5,000 people to pre-order the first version of its fitness tracker -- and venture capitalists, it began selling devices in 2009. By 2015, it went public with a multibillion dollar IPO, and by 2016, one in two fitness trackers sold were Fitbits. But by 2017, sales started to fall off, as consumers shifted to fully-featured smartwatches rather than lower-tech fitness bands and its revenue and stock price began to tumble. Its sales were eventually surpassed by Apple's, which was able to sell more wearables despite devices prices that were often over $100 more than Fibit's.
We've reported before on the scam that is the workplace "wellness" program. These are ostensibly voluntary initiatives that aim to goad employees into healthier lifestyles -- say through diet, exercise and smoking cessation -- by offering them a discount on their health insurance premiums or some other benefit. A bill now making its way through Congress would give employers an even stronger hand in forcing workers to give up their privacy. The "Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act," which sailed through the House Committee on Education and the Workforce last week on a 22-17 party-line vote with Republicans in the majority, is "an ugly piece of legislation," warns Nicholas Bagley of the University of Michigan. The measure, he reports, would "effectively allow businesses to require their employees to disclose lots of sensitive medical data, including their genetic information."
A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information. Giving employers such power is now prohibited by legislation including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a "workplace wellness" program. The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. It has been overshadowed by the debate over the House GOP proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but the genetic testing bill is expected to be folded into a second ACA-related measure containing a grab-bag of provisions that do not affect federal spending, as the main bill does.