From Health Care to Self-Care: Workplace Wellness Programs and Health Discrimination
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On March 2, 2017, a potential loophole to the United States Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) was presented to the United States Congress. Bill H.R.1313 seeks to amend the GINA, to allow companies to subject their employees to genetic testing as part of Workplace Wellness Programs (WWPs). By conducting an analysis of congressional hearings related to WWPs and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as well as meetings held by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a civil rights group, this thesis argues that wellness programs have risen in popularity among US employers as a response to the ACA. Wellness programs are presented as an opportunity for employees to reduce their insurance premiums. I argue, however, that employers offer lower premiums to those who practice ‘healthy lifestyles’ and are knowledgeable about their bodies and those who do not meet these outcomes pay more for their health. Wellness programs foster what some scholarship refers to as ‘biological citizenship’ (Rose and Novas 2003, Petryna 2002): the idea that individuals must take responsibility for their own health and well-being; as well as ‘technological citizenship’ (Barry 2001): the expectation that individuals must have technoscientific knowledge about the self as well as institutional knowledge about how to navigate the health care system. This thesis seeks to understand how wellness programs are grounded in particular conceptions of what it means to be healthy, and how the programs could open the door to discrimination based on genetics, but also based on categories of class, gender, age, race, and disability. As wellness programs can be used as a tool to assign more responsibility and cost to the individual, they could create a shift from health care to self-care.
URI for this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/1974/26129
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