CALEDONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan woman taking part in a wellness program to earn a lower insurance premium says she was marked as unhealthy after a yearly physical — but the numbers don’t take into account that she’s six months pregnant.
If she doesn’t make up for the results, her insurance payments could go up 40 percent.
“I understand the concept and I get how it’s trying to motivate people … I see the benefit of it, but I just think it needs some very big tweaking,” Brianna Alizabeth told 24 Hour News 8.
Kindred Healthcare’s Healthy Steps Wellness Program is based on points. A participant needs 2,200 points by July in order to maintain a discounted monthly payment. Points are earned by completing a yearly physical and participating in activities laid out on the website, like getting proper sleep or visiting the dentist.
Alizabeth completed her physical earlier this month and was baffled to see she’s starting at a 600-point deficit this year because some of her results no longer meet the requirements, including waist circumference, blood pressure and cholesterol. All those measurements are higher than normal because of her pregnancy.
“The results pretty much categorized me as an unhealthy, obese person because of my waist being so large — which obviously it’s large for good reason,” she said. “I’m blessed because I’m pregnant and this is an exciting thing, so this is frustrating because I’m bringing life into the world and I’m being penalized for it.”
She has since spent several hours on the phone and email to get someone from Kindred Healthcare to help her. So far, the company’s responses have included pursuing an appeals process, meeting with a life coach to gain some of the points back, or having her doctor complete a waiver confirming her pregnancy is healthy.
A company representative offered the waiver Wednesday afternoon, but Alizabeth has yet to receive it. The deadline for it to be turned in is Jan. 31.
The insurance company released the following statement to 24 Hour News 8:
“Kindred’s wellness program is offered to eligible employees as a means to lead a happier, healthier life. We want employees to take care of themselves, much as they care for our patients and residents. Everyone who is eligible for the wellness program has the opportunity to earn the points necessary to maintain a discounted rate for the entire year, regardless of any medical condition including pregnancy. Those who don’t attain all their needed points through screening because they have a medical condition like pregnancy are provided reasonable alternative standards to earn their points. We can’t speak to the specific situation of any employee due to privacy laws but the wellness program does not discriminate against pregnant women.”
**Editor’s note: Alizabeth is related to a 24 Hour News 8 producer. To prevent a conflict of interest, that producer was not involved in the reporting, writing or editing of this story.