Who says the country is polarized? In wellness, bipartisanship rules!
Having just been eviscerated by the Guardian on Monday, today wellness got quite literally its worst coverage ever — from the blog of Laura Ingraham. Yes, the very same Laura Ingraham who has her own radio show and guest-hosts The O’Reilly Factor. This may be the only instance ever in which the left-wing Guardian agrees with the right-wing Laura Ingraham.
The wellness industry is running out of wings.
Hers is just the latest media salvo. Right, left, and center — the same media that used to fawn over this stuff (“everybody wins — employees are healthier and employers save money”) — has consistently been savaging these vendors and “pry, poke and prod” programs worse than we do, ever since Penn State.
Because we are an equal-time blog, we’ll review both the Guardian’s and Ms. Ingraham’s. However, read our entire posting. I will hint that, regardless of politics, you will think we are saving the best for last. (Actually, since we strive for 100% accuracy, we should say we are saving the better for later.)
The Left Wing
The Guardian published an extensive article on the privacy invasion that can accompany wellness programs. Much as I am not a fan of “pry, poke and prod,” I do think the folks who attack wellness on the basis of privacy substantially overstate their case. There are many things wrong with wellness, but we need to tell the truth on this site, since we are in the “integrity segment” of the market. And the truth is that wellness vendors don’t hand over employee personal health information (PHI) to employers. Not that we want to give them any ideas.
PHI can also be leaked accidentally, of course. Staywell wasn’t exactly forthcoming about this so you may not have heard about it, but they got breached. Hence we would recommend that you “stay well” away from them as a wellness vendor. Other wellness vendors have managed to keep hackers at bay. It could be airtight security measures on the part of the industry, but it’s more likely that hackers simply have no interest in wellness data because of its worthlessness.
Still, these wellness people have no one but themselves to blame when articles like this get published. Castlight, for example, is feeding this beast by boasting that they can predict who is going to become pregnant. The Guardian called them out on this. I have nothing against Castlight but that is eerily reminiscent of the Highmark/Goetzel/Penn State debacle when women were fined $1200 if they didn’t disclose their pregnancy plans on their health risk assessments.
And how did The Guardian write a couple thousand words on privacy without noticing Aetna’s employee DNA collection-and-storage program? In all fairness, it probably never occurred to them that a major company would ever do such a thing, so they didn’t think to look for it.
And basically every article ever published on privacy starts with the assumption that these programs must save money. Otherwise why would employers do them, given their cost and morale impact? So the Guardian never called out these vendors on lying about savings.
The Right Wing
The Guardian’s smackdown is figuratively and almost literally yesterday’s news. The news got worse today, for the wellness industry. The LifeZette (the name of Laura Ingraham’s website) skewered the wellness industry to a degree never seen outside this blog. The LifeZette article starts by pointing out that no one even pretends any more that there is an ROI from wellness. (We just covered that newfound wellness industry candor from a different angle, in Insurance Thought Leadership.)
The article also laments the lack of regulation in wellness, possibly the only time in history when any even loosely Fox-affiliated publication has opined that there isn’t enough government regulation of something. They are, of course, right. There is literally no defense of unregulated wellness industry practices that are more likely to harm employees than benefit them, just to line their own pockets. No doctor could get away with this.
Absent regulation, the article points out that companies like ShapeUp — specifically, ShapeUp — harm employees with their yo-yo dieting programs. The reporter, Pat Barone, extensively documents the harms that ShapeUp creates with its get-thin-quick “challenges,” and then notes many other harms wellness programs can cause.
We never take sides in politics on this site. Instead we frequently note — as in this posting — that both “wings” agree with us. But I will give a shout-out to this right-wing site here. Ms. Barone’s article absolutely nails the dishonest and harmful business practices of ShapeUp and others.
Usually we try to end these postings with a clever line of our own, but instead we’ll end with one of Barone’s:
The [new] alliance of ShapeUp with the two additional companies [Virgin Pulse being the lead dog], presumably means many more crash dieters wreaking havoc on their future health.
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