Mercer CEO weighs in on CVS Caremark health care cost flap

(CBS News) Some companies try to lower health care costs by rewarding employees who make healthier choices.

But pharmacy giant CVS Caremark now says its workers could be fined $600 a year. Employees have to report their weight, blood sugar and cholesterol levels to avoid the penalty.

Julio Portalatin, president and chief executive officer of Mercer, a human resource consulting firm, said of the CVS Caremark headlines, "There are ways to go about these things that we think is much more positive, quite frankly, and rewarding good behavior.

"We think that different cultures respond to different ways of moving behavior from one side of the equation to the other," he said. "What we have found in our consultancy services is that we tend to be able to partner with employees more readily for more sustainable health advantage and health improvement in their behavior if you do it in a very positive and rewarding way."

Portalatin said Mercer encourages voluntary programs, such as health assessments, to encourage individuals to carry on healthy lifestyle choices.

"With those assessments, there will be a result of that assessment and then a dialogue between the employee and the employer as to what they might be willing to actually invest in to ultimately be able to change their health patterns," Portalatin said. "That's helping with overall health costs because that's what this is all about, right? At the end of the day, it's about lowering health care costs, and it's also, hopefully, about being able to influence positively lifestyle."

So what kind of incentives work best? Watch Portalatin's full "CTM" interview in the video above.

Editor's note: CBS is among the broadcasting companies Mercer advises.