No sooner did I post Congressional Candidate Runs Hard Against Forced Wellness than I found another candidate doing exactly the same thing.
This candidate, Paul Kramschuster, is running for a school board in Kansas City. Here is his website. Teachers in that city’s Center School District have been harassed and forced into wellness, at considerable expense to their school district — which has nothing to show for it other than bills and annoyed employees. Neither Blue Cross of Kansas City nor Healthmine nor their broker, CBIZ, has been able to demonstrate any outcomes.
While a Republican won an election running against wellness in Pennsylvania and a Democrat is running against it in North Carolina, this Kansas City election is nonpartisan. No party affiliations involved. It appears that independents feel the same way about wellness as Democrats and Republicans.
Here are some tidbits from Mr. Kramschuster’s website:
Another argument made by the district’s insurance broker, which is accepted uncritically by the district, is the recommendation that the district purchase a $70,000 wellness program for the district. The main feature of this program is a blood test and questionnaire asking employees about their drinking habits, their history of disease and what medical tests they have had or plan to have. Most employees do not want this program and would prefer not to have it.
The broker, CBIZ, is collecting a nice fee from the district’s taxpayers, who might have otherwise assumed that their school taxes were being spent on educating their children:
In the early years of this program, employees did not participate, and so in order to induce more employees to participate (by giving up their medical privacy), so as to increase the broker’s profit, the broker recommended the district to pay each employee that gives up her medical privacy
Even the prospect of a bribe doesn’t excite the teachers…
The amount of the payment is $600. In order to receive this payment, many more employees do participate, but they are very unhappy about it. It feels mandatory/coercive, and it feels morally wrong.
…and of course the school board has been completely unaccountable:
No one on the board, or in central office, is asking the critically important question: “How does paying teachers to give up their medical privacy serve students?” The answer, of course, is that it doesn’t — the district is serving its broker, rather than expecting its broker to serve it.
The school board was given the option of swapping out this onerous program for Quizzify, which teachers love (and they would still earn their $600 by learning how to purchase healthcare more wisely) because of its Q&A format.
However, because it would have cost the District only about 1/7th of what the Healthmine program costs, the broker would have made much less money. It was turned down. Taxpayers are now on the hook for the full $70,000, plus the cost of potential lawsuits…
…I did do some checking: the CBIZ/Healthmine program is not validated by the Validation Institute, neither Healthmine nor CBIZ has signed the Ethical Wellness Code of Conduct, and no member of the school board seems the slightest bit aware that this is exactly the type of program that has been proven to be a complete waste of money.
Or that this is exactly the type of program which, on January 2nd, will be disallowed…and will open up the district and its taxpayers to lawsuits from these very same harassed and demoralized teachers.
In this hyperpartisan era, conservatives and liberals agree on only one thing: forcing employees into outcomes-based wellness programs is one of the worst ideas in the history of ideas. If you scroll down our feature In The News, you’ll see wellness gets equal treatment by right-wing publications like Newsmax and The Federalist as well as left-wing publications like Slate and Mother Jones.
Opposing forced wellness has already propelled one candidate into elective office: Matthew Woessner, whose leadership in Penn State’s faculty revolt against the punitive “pry, poke and prod” plan proposed by Highmark and Ron Goetzel, was elected President of the university’s faculty senate. Matthew is a self-described Republican libertarian.
In keeping with the bipartisan nature of wellness, it is fitting that the first Congressional candidate to take on the wellness industry is, conversely, a Democrat, Jenny Marshall. Jenny (as she likes to be called) is running against Virginia Foxx (R-NC5), who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce. A powerful combination of this lucrative committee chairmanship, lack of ethics and a gerrymandered “safe” district (at least until voters find out about this bill), allows Foxx to “represent” the American Benefits Council rather than voters in her district. Indeed, I suspect she has nary a single constituent who supports employees being pried, poked and prodded into submission. It is not at all clear how this bill would benefit her district.
Any controversy over whether forced wellness saves a nickel or even improves health has long since been laid to rest. Hence, the American Benefits Council’s enthusiasm for forced wellness is all about making programs so onerous and unappealing that employees prefer to pay the $1000 fines rather than be subjected to the indignity and potential harms of being pried, poked and prodded by unlicensed, unregulated wellness vendors.
On the other hand, these programs can be very lucrative for employers, who can claw back large chunks of their insurance premiums forfeited by non-compliant employees. Vendors have already figured out how to offer “immediate savings” for employers through collecting these fines from employees.
Unless Foxx’s bill becomes law, this lucrative, misanthropic, anti-employee loophole will be closed December 31, thanks to the ruling in AARP v. EEOC, which will prevent employers from forcing employees into “voluntary” wellness programs.
Foxx’s HR1313, known colloquially as the Employee DNA Full Disclosure Act, would override this common-sense federal court decision. Worse, it would allow employers to force not only employees but their children into these programs. And not just prying, poking and prodding them, but collecting their DNA as well. Yep, your children’s DNA is fair game if this bill passes. It is so onerous that even much of the wellness industry opposes it, though they stand to benefit from it.
It is headed for a floor vote sometime this spring, having been voted out of her committee on — get ready — a straight party-line vote. (So much for the GOP standing for individual rights.)
Jenny Marshall fights back
Jenny has posted a summary of this bill right on her campaign website. Asked for a comment, she replied: “Foxx’s bill could very well be the worst proposed legislation in the history of Congress. Its intrusiveness would make Orwell blush. I can’t figure out why she would want to invade the privacy of her constituents like this, other than raking in big dollars from lobbyists. For too long now, Foxx has turned a deaf ear to the wants and needs of the people of our district, and for that betrayal should be voted out of her seat.”
If this bill passes, the very stable geniuses at “outcomes-based” wellness vendors like Bravo, Interactive Health, Wellsteps, Corporate Wellness Solutions, and Staywell will be able to trample employee rights to privacy, fine them and harm them — for no reason other than to enrich their own coffers, and those of their corporate overlords. Absent this legislation, millions will be thrilled to be freed from their anti-employee jihads on December 31 — and employers can find kinder, gentler conventional programs, a la Redbrick or unconventional ones like Limeade (and/or Quizzify, of course) instead.
The way to keep this bill from passing? Vote Foxx out of office. Shed no tears for her. She will get a lucrative job, possibly representing the American Benefits Council in their quest to collect fines from employees — just like she does now.
Only starting in 2019 her paycheck will come directly from them, as opposed to indirectly, as it does now.
In the wellness industry’s epidemic of very stable geniusitis, Healthywage is Patient Einstein.
Somehow they recruited Russian trolls to convince Schlumberger that the best thing they could do to reverse their four-year stock price decline…
…would be to: encourage their employees to binge and then crash-diet. So far Schlumberger is halfway through its 8-week crash-dieting contest. In case you’re keeping score at home following our initial posting, here are the standings:
Pound Town has lost 10% of its weight in 4 weeks. Figure — as a conservative estimate — the average participant weighed 200 pounds at weigh-in. A 9.86% loss of body weight equates to more than 19 pounds, almost 5 pounds a week. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 1-2 pounds/week.
The better CDC recommendations include not crash-dieting at all, but rather improving your health and fitness, at your current weight, because rapid weight loss likely leads to rapid weight regain, and possibly even slows metabolism so that one could regain more than one loses.
However, the CDC recommendations didn’t take into account that weight regain is a big part of what makes this contest work. Employees can win the $10,000 in 2018 — and then regain the weight in order to enter again in 2019. Is this a great country or what?
Health has nothing to do with it, of course. It’s about making Schlumberger shareholders proud again.
There is a lot more to this study than meets the eye.
Some tourist attractions feature an “A” tour for newbies and then a “behind-the-scenes” tour for those of us who truly need lives. For instance, I confess to having taken Disney’s Magic Kingdom underground tour, exploring, among other things, the tunnels through which employees travel so as not to be seen out of costume in the wrong “Land.”
Likewise, there have been many reviews of the recent wellness study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), the first-ever randomized control study of a wellness program. This, however, is the first review to go beyond the “A” tour of the headlines.
By way of background, the headline is that the mainstream wellness program the investigators examined at the University of Illinois did not noticeably move the needle on employee health. They didn’t address return-on-investment (ROI), because there obviously was none. Achieving a positive ROI would require moving the health risk needle—not just by a little, but rather by enough to significantly improve the health of many employees. Then, since wellness-related events, such as heart attacks, would not otherwise have befallen these employees immediately, this improvement would have to be sustained over several years before there was a statistical chance of some events being avoided.
Finally, the magnitude of this improvement would have to be great enough to violate the rules of arithmetic, because it is not mathematically possible to avoid enough medical events to break even on wellness. For instance, it actually costs about $1 million to avoid a heart attack through a screening program.
This finding, therefore, represents an existential threat to conventional wellness programs.
It all boils down to: why would an associate professor (Damon Jones) publicly humiliate his own dean (Katherine Baicker — yes, the very same Katherine Baicker who always seems to be on the wrong side of every wellness debate) …unless he is absolutely sure he is right?
She can’t fire him now because that would get picked up by the lay media. Perhaps she should have paid him $130,000 not to disclose the results.
I cannot make this stuff up. While there were other issues too, here is the article. Scroll down towards the end and you’ll see that getting rid of the wellness program ranked right up there with a pay raise in worker demands, becoming the key issue for them even after the pay raise was agreed upon:
It wasn’t so clear any longer that a pay raise could resolve them. Quite quickly, it was apparent that the union’s membership…would reject the deal. “I live paycheck to paycheck,” Katie Endicott, a thirty-one-year-old high-school teacher from Gilbert, told the Times. Then she recounted the program, mandated by the state’s new health-insurance program, that required teachers to download an app that would check how many steps they took each day.
“If I don’t earn enough points, and if I choose not to use the app, then I’m penalized $500 at the end of the year,” she said. “People felt that was very invasive.”
The irony, of course, is that this is far from the most invasive wellness program we’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t even be subject to the forthcoming rules reflecting the AARP v. EEOC decision. Plus, taking some extra steps is a good idea in general, and especially in the state with the country’s second-highest obesity rate.
Still, the fact that an activity tracking program was considered repugnant enough extend a strike over is Exhibit A that WillisTowersWatson is right: employees hate wellness. Not all wellness, of course, but rather forced voluntary wellness programs just like this one.