How insurers, businesses monitor your health raises privacy concerns

WASHINGTON – More health care providers, insurers and businesses are taking an active role monitoring employees’ health.

They are buying people’s information from marketing firms that collect data on purchases made.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is buying spending data on more than three million people, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Insurers and businesses tell The Wall Street Journal the goal is to help people make healthy choices.

For example, people buying cigarettes with credit cards might start getting smoking cessation information in the mail from their insurance companies.

Or someone buying plus-sized clothes might need information on weight loss programs.

Patient privacy groups worry such practices are invasive and could lead to job discrimination.

Some workers, like those at Safeway, are choosing to share personal health information for financial incentives.

Safeway employees might pay different health care premiums based on whether they smoke, are overweight, have high- or low blood pressure or high- or low cholesterol levels.

The Institute for HealthCare Consumerism says health risks can make employees less productive and can double the cost of workers compensation claims paid by their employers.

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this story. Follow @kingWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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