THE HELP DESK The Help Desk: Top Tips

Health test for insurance coverage

To stem rising health care costs, companies are pushing for health assessment tests. Should you share this personal information?

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all RSS FEEDS (close)
By Gerri Willis, CNN personal finance editor

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.

NEW YORK ( -- Let's start with what a health assessment actually is. It's an online questionnaire with 25 - 80 questions that over half of companies are giving to employees according to a recent study by Aon Consulting. The information is collected by a third party.

The idea here is that workers' health issues can be identified earlier, and the company would be able to develop wellness plans that would lower their insurance costs.

You may be asked for information related to your diet, exercise habits, your blood pressure/cholesterol or whether you smoke. This year you won't be asked about your family history since a new law takes effect in December.

We know a lot of people will have concerns that if they reveal bad habits, they could be dropped from their health insurance, or have to pay higher premiums.

Don't worry, neither your manager nor your insurer will know what kind of couch potato you are, or how many Twinkies you polish off in one sitting. In fact, they won't see your personal information at all. The data is compiled into an aggregate report. The only thing your employer may see is the percentage of its employees that are overweight, overstressed or smoke.

So, while it's unlikely you'll be caught if you lie on your assessment, it's in your best interest to answer it honestly. HIPAA law -- that stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act -- prevents that information from being released to your insurer or employer according to Nancy Metcalf of Consumer Reports.

So what kind of payoff can you expect for filling out one of these assessment tests?

It used to be that you would get a trinket, like a T-shirt, or maybe a few bucks for filling out the questionnaire. But more employers are upping the ante -- offering lowered insurance premiums and co-pays if you take advantage of wellness programs says Debi Heck of Aon Consulting.

Other employers may implement different policies based on the assessment results -- like making the company grounds smoke-free or increasing the price of high-fat cafeteria fare. A few companies have even denied health insurance to workers who don't fill out these forms.

-- CNN's Jen Haley contributed to this article.

Talkback: Why would/wouldn't you fill out a health risk assessment test? To top of page

They're hiring!These Fortune 100 employers have at least 350 openings each. What are they looking for in a new hire? More
If the Fortune 500 were a country...It would be the world's second-biggest economy. See how big companies' sales stack up against GDP over the past decade. More
Sponsored By:
More Galleries
These 10 food trends could dominate 2015 So long, kale. Here's what's expected to shake up the food industry next year. More
Beyond Russia: Geopolitical hot spots in 2015 Investors beware: These 5 global crises are likely to rattle the stock market and world economy. More
These 20 antique guns could fetch big bucks Morphy Auctions in Pennsylvania is putting nearly 1,000 old guns on the block. Here are just a few. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.