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Originally published September 25 2011

Chicago forces city employees to participate in 'wellness' plan or pay more for health insurance

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) In an effort to cut in half the $500 million-a-year healthcare bill precipitated by Chicago's city employees, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has initiated a new public employee wellness program that he hopes will turn things around. But according to the Chicago Sun-Times, the program is mandatory for nearly all of the city's unions and its members, including even those members that already abide by their own personal wellness programs -- and individuals that do not comply with it will be subjected to added fees on their health insurance premiums.

According to Emanuel, the bulk of Chicago's health care costs are associated with treating diseases like obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, all of which can be effectively "managed," as he puts it, through improved lifestyle factors like getting more exercise and eating better. But these same diseases can also be effectively prevented as well, a fact that we have written about on many occasions (

"Six-to-eight percent of the city's employees drive almost two-thirds of the health care costs around five chronic illnesses that are all manageable," said Emanuel in defense of the plan. "We are going to be the first city to implement a citywide wellness plan for our employees because health care costs are being driven [up] by ten percent a year and we're not seeing revenue growing that way."

While the program may help to encourage healthier lifestyles, and thus reduce healthcare costs, some say that its structure gives too much control into the hands of the government to tell people what to do. The Chicago Sun-Times explains that part of the program involves health coaches checking up on every single employee, for instance, to make sure that they are all following their prescribed "nutritional, medical and physical fitness regimens."

These overarching requirements, which represent a type of healthcare dictatorship, could quickly devolve into a forced adherence to conventional medicine. If "wellness" coaches decide that all workers must get vaccinated, for example, in order to abide by the "medical regimens," then freedom of healthcare choice for public employees will have all but vanished in the name of promoting "wellness."

"If you don't participate and do every aspect of what wellness is telling you, at some point, they're gonna turn around and say, "You have a higher premium," said Chicago's Fraternal Order of Police president Mike Shields, concerning why his union will not be participating in the program. "We have to make sure we're protecting our membership from having to pay more of a premium than our current system."

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