Let's get something out of the way right here and right now.
I'm not just fat, I am morbidly obese. I have written extensively over the years about my life being an utter nightmare because I'm slowly dying, literally dying, and suffocating underneath all of this weight. I've not only written about my weight for a nationally circulated, popular magazine, I've gone on camera talking about it for HBO!
Because I'm fat I've also been discriminated in the most heinous way possible. However I can't talk about that. All I can say, legally, is that the case is settled. Due to how horribly I've been treated in various workplaces in the past, I will never ever work again, outside of my own home, for another person, as long as I live. Just thinking about putting myself in that position again makes me physically ill! I've been to the point, in the past, that I sat in a tub full of cold water, held a razor blade to my arms and dared myself to just end the pain caused by people who have made it their goal in life to make sure fat people know just how unworthy we are, how unpleasant we are to look at, and how much we're hated because somehow we are solely responsible for rising health care costs - or more to the point, people who have made it their goal in life to let me know how heinous I am, and how unworthy of occupying space on earth, I am. The message has been driven in, loud and clear, repeatedly. Maybe the fact that I have been deeply broken inside for a long time, makes it harder for me to let the cruel words, jokes, and snide fat-shaming comments roll off my back, leaving me somewhat emotionally crippled when it comes to dealing with the hatred lobbed at me from time to time, due to my weight.
You're saying to yourself, "Well honey, there's an easy solution, lose the weight! It's not brain surgery, just stop shoving the Big Macs in your face and get off your ass!" Oh m'dears, if it were only that simple. Obviously I'm a total loser, because I'm still sitting here, more than 150lbs over my ideal weight, and struggling with how to take it off in a healthy, reasonable manner, and incorporate a lot more movement, all while recuperating from a devastating knee injury. That said, I'm really glad I don't work at CVS as well because I'm pretty sure there's no way in hell I'd let them force me into complying with a new corporate edict that says I need to submit to a health screening (paid for by CVS) including weight, height, body-fat measuring, blood pressure, glucose, and fasting lipid levels by May 1, 2013 or face a penalty of $50 a month/$600 a year on top of what I was already paying for health insurance!
Keep in mind that many of CVS's 175,000+ employees are low-wage earners in the first place. Now let's combine that with some national statistics about obesity that show us that more than a full third of Americans are overweight, while up to one quarter of us are considered technically obese. So we can loosely extrapolate that half of those 175,000+ employees are overweight or obese. I know I'm playing fast and loose with the numbers, but I'm probably not that far off. So now you've got roughly 85,000 people employed by CVS, most of whom don't make much more than minimum wage to begin with, who are now dealing with what is basically corporate coercion and on top of that are concerned about the privacy of their personal health information (despite claims by WebMD Health Services Group, who will end up with the information, promising that corporate suits at CVS will never see the data. We all know how easily supposedly protected medical data has been breached in the past. Need I say more?) , and if they don't comply with the new CVS policy, they will have to cough up what equals $600 a year.
Now I want you to take all of the above into consideration when I tell you that President Obama's beloved health care act, the PPACA (also known as "Obamacare") makes it completely legal for employers to "penalize obese workers, smokers and anyone else who doesn't participate in the company wellness plan and meet specific goals." So now we've got employees who are understandably worried about giving personal health information to a third party aggregator who is going to help CVS interpret all the data, but they've got the Federal government basically condoning this and making it completely legal for a company to say, "You're fat! Less money for you!" In my book that's called discrimination.
Oh, but wait a minute, that's right, silly me . . . fat people are the last group of Americans we're legally allowed to discriminate against.
What I find laughable is that talking heads like Tamara Holder, who is a liberal paid contributor over at FOX News was on TV earlier crowing about how unfair this CVS policy is because it forces employees to acquiesce or they face having to pay a fine, yet this same woman is an ardent supporter of the PPACA which, oh wait . . . forces people to buy health care or pay a fine if they refuse to do so. I've seen other zealous liberals (for the record I'm independent of either party. My views make me a pariah to both sides. I do however believe that instituting a single-payer system would have rendered all of this nastiness, moot) in my Twitter and Facebook feeds decrying this policy move from CVS as intolerance on a monumental scale, yet they're the first ones to defend the mandate that is Obamacare? Despite the obvious hypocrisy of Holder's, and other liberal's views, Obamacare is a topic for another post entirely and one that I'm not altogether sure I want to opine on as my views are highly unpopular.
Politics aside, the new policy being implemented at CVS is outright discriminatory and just plain offensive. Yes, I know, you're sitting there yelling at your computer screen trying to get me to understand that obesity is solely to blame for your health insurance premiums going up. Um, bullshit. While it will be a leading driver of escalating health care costs if we don't get this monster under control, and we could see obesity-related health care costs upwards of $500BILLION by 2030, it is not the sole reason your health insurance rates are as high as they are, and to claim as much really does nothing more than show how prejudiced you are against the obese in the first place. There are so very many factors that go into what is currently driving our escalating health care costs, but placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of the obese is wrong.
Before you start lining up all of us fatties and penalizing us for being obese, why not engage with us in a reasonable and unbiased discussion about the factors that contribute to obesity which have been going on for decades? It's not as simple as the last few generations suddenly losing all willpower and becoming fast-food-freaks of nature. It's about our society as a whole and the fast-paced-gotta-have-it-now-gotta-have-it-big mentality that we've adopted over the last 40 years. It's about our food chain and how the production of our food plays into what we end up eating. It's about making healthy, whole foods more widely available not to mention affordable.
Yes, you'll get no argument from me that we are getting pretty damn fat! The only thing that's surpassing the rate at which our waistlines increase is the rate at which technology gets smaller and smaller - to the nano-scale. We're able to fit much more data on smaller and smaller microchips, but our asses are getting so large as to necessitate larger automobiles and in some cases, custom made hospital beds to accommodate the obese. However, attacking us and then levying monetary fines when we don't comply with what are pretty questionable policy demands, makes about as much sense as peeing on our feet and telling us it's rain!
So, you're not going to get any argument from me about the fact that we're all getting fatter and sicker. What you will see me rail against is bullshit policy implementation like that imposed by CVS that basically scares people into compliance by forcing them to give up this information or be financially penalized. To further that, like I said earlier, once they've got the information, once January 1, 2014 rolls around, it will be completely legal for your employer to penalize you for not participating in company wellness standards and meeting certain goals . This sort of forced compliance circumvents any legitimate and necessary conversation that we as a nation need to have about our health. It does nothing to address the "Fast Food Nation" we've become. We didn't get here overnight, so condemning us now, via financial pain, isn't going to help matters, and it only makes us feel further discriminated against.
While you will never see me jump on the "Healthy at Any Size" movement, or alternatively you'll never see me advocate discrimination against the obese simply because they are obese, you likewise won't see me damn the rest of the my fellow Americans who struggle just as much as I do with their own weight, or overlook the corporate bigotry against the overweight and obese - a bigortry that's condoned by our own government, simply because I myself am fat!
The real kicker about this entire CVS policy implementation? They're making their employees sign a form stating that they are voluntarily providing this personal health information then allow the information to be given to WebMD Health Services Group. Oh sure it's completely and totally voluntary and couldn't have anything to do with facing a $50 per month increase in their health care premiums if they don't submit to the new policy. For someone making minimum wage or just barely over it, that's a pretty painful chunk of change to suddenly lose from your monthly income.
CVS, here's an idea. Why don't you think about implementing a plan that offers incentives to those who adjust their eating habits and make positive changes towards living a healthy lifestyle. Soon enough they'll realize on their own, the rewards of weighing less, being more active, and putting fuel rather than fat into their bodies. Your current policy is bullshit and you're helping blur the lines between motivating wellness and potentially discriminating against workers who are ill.