Dear They Said What Nation,
Besides the minor points that your employees’ or dependents’ odds of getting one of these surprise bills are 10 times the odds of having a heart attack or diabetes hospitalization* and that unlike the latter, these bills are utterly avoidable, here are three major reasons to sign up for this webinar:
- The 1500th registrant receives a $100 Amazon gift card from the Validation Institute, assuming they attend.
- You do NOT have to “attend” the webinar to experience it. Registrants will be given the recording. But you do have to register here.
- The way to be certain this is a valuable webinar that will result in easy, major, immediate, behavior change for any employer that implements our elegant solution is that no Koop Award-winning wellness vendor has registered for it — despite the fact that Whole Foods would redeem the gift card for almost all the broccoli you can eat.
A handful of other wellness vendors have signed up. We salute them.
- Health Advocate
- It Starts with Me
- Maestro Health
- US Preventive Medicine
And a special Honorable Mention to Wellable for posting the Reader’s Digest version of the webinar right here.
PS If you are a wellness vendor specifically, and I missed you while scanning the ridiculously long list of attendees, ping me and I’ll add you. Or sign up now and I’ll add you.
*OK, here is the calculation. The lower bound of these odds on any ER visit or admission is about 1-in-5 for any in-network facility according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Others pace the odds at twice that, but we’ll go with the more conservative estimate. Your covered population incurs about 240 ER visits and admissions in total. 20% of 240 is: 48 per 1000. Whereas the number of covered people who will get a heart attack or have a diabetes event is 2 per 1000.
Oh, did I say surprise bills were ten times as likely? That would make them 24 times as likely.
And yet, unlike heart attacks and diabetes, totally avoidable…
According to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, an employee’s odds of getting a surprise medical bill for an ER visit or a hospital stay exceed 40%!
Well, you might say, serves ’em right for not staying in-network.
Wrong. This study looked only at in-network visits and admissions. Thing is, in-network facilities are often staffed with out-of-network providers. I know this firsthand — I’m in a private equity fund that’s making a killing by rolling up provider practices in local markets and keeping them out of network. It’s illegal for provider practices to collude to stay out of network, but it is perfectly legal for them to merge and make a practice-wide decision to stay out of network.
So, wellness vendors and consultants, here are two opportunities you can’t refuse, that are both central to your business strategy:
- Actually do something useful for employees, as opposed to your usual scripted diatribes. Newsflash: employees already know they need to quit smoking and eat broccoli. But they don’t know how to avoid these bills.
- Prevent me from making money.
Also, this is the one thing that could bankrupt them that is totally avoidable. And yet your financial wellness program doesn’t cover it.
Fortunately, if you can spare one short hour on October 31 (which you will get back 38 hours later, when the time changes), you can learn how your employees can avoid these bills. All it takes is a little sticker to put on an insurance card and teaching employees to use their card, rather than sign whatever is put in front of them and/or say: “Same as last year” when they ask you if your insurance information has changed.
The all-star cast of this webinar includes David Contorno, Brian Klepper, Marty Makary, and Marilyn Bartlett. You can register here.
PS If you can’t make the time because of open enrollment, you’ll have access to the recording.
Finally! A valid way to measure wellness outcomes that requires only a calculator, a triple-digit IQ, and complete suspension of disbelief! Introducing the Wishful Thinking Factor, or WTF. Those of you accustomed to reviewing wellness vendor outcomes may think those initials stand for something else…and we will indeed use those initials in their more common context at the end of this posting.
By contrast, this WTF is defined as:
Dollars claimed as savings/percent improvement in risk factors.
The elegance of the WTF is exceeded only by its widespread acceptance. WTF is already the wellness industry’s preferred analysis, so I am merely confirming that we agree. The only difference between my WTF calculation and theirs is they don’t actually put the numerator and denominator on the same page.
Meaning, they don’t actually announce: “Here’s our huge savings generated by our trivial risk reduction…wait…this is impossible…WTF???”
That’s because then it would be perfectly obvious that they are fabricating the savings. Instead they put “dollars saved” on one page and the improvement in risk factors on another page, way far away — and hope nobody compares them. (Interactive Health is the most stable genius example of that, as we’ll see below.)
What is the real causal relationship between risk reduction and savings?
A distressingly relevant joke circulated among us rip-roaringly hilarious faculty back when I taught in the Harvard economics department. A chemist, physicist and economist are stranded on a desert island with only a can of beans. To open it, the physicist suggests dropping it off a cliff, so that it will open upon impact. The chemist points out that would splatter the contents, and suggests instead that they put the can in a fire, and once the can gets hot enough, it will melt. The physicist points out that the beans would all burn up in the fire. At an impasse, they turn to the economist and ask what he would do.
The economist replies: “Assume a can opener.”
In keeping with that spirit, we will make six (count ’em, 6) equally generous assumptions for determining the true WTF:
- Every wellness-sensitive medical admission or ER visit is a direct function of the risk that the wellness vendor measures in a population. In other words, social determinants of health and genetics have nothing to do with the likelihood of a heart attack or diabetes event
- Even the dumbest wellness vendors know how to measure risk (following their five days of training in medicine)
- Employees never cheat to improve their biometric scores and never lie on their risk assessments
- Dropouts and non-participants would improve in risk at the same rate as participants do, so the fact that they don’t participate doesn’t change the overall risk reduction in the population
- No lag time between risk reduction and event avoidance
- No false positives, no added lab tests, drugs, doctor visits or anything else that might possibly increase utilization and cost of outpatient care in order to reduce inpatient utilization — which of course is the opposite of what the wellness trade association readily admits to:
Using those generous assumptions, measured wellness-sensitive medical admissions (WMSAs), and the total cost of those events, would decline at the same rate as measured risk declines. According to the Health Enhancement Research Organization, WSMAs comprise no more than $100 PEPY in a commercially insured population. So every 1% decline in risk yields a spending decline of $1.
Relaxing the assumptions above would likely reveal that this WTF is also overstated, but it has the advantage of consensus among the 60+ experts who contributed to the HERO outcomes guidelines measurement tool, so we’ll call this the Gold Standard, to which other WTFs are compared.
Now let’s make a little list of the WTFs compiled by the industry’s very stable geniuses, in their great and unmatched wisdom. Naturally, in that category, the first to come to mind are Interactive Health and Ron Goetzel.
Let’s start with Interactive Health. Excluding dropouts and non-participants, they claimed a 5.3% risk reduction (20.3% reduced risk while 15% increased them). So they saved a maximum, assuming the six assumptions above, $5.30 PEPY:
The claimed savings was:
Averaging those claims yields $804, for a WTF of 151.
As a side note, allocating that $804 in savings across the 5.3% who actually did see a decline in risk factors yields over $15,000 per risk factor reduced. No mean feat when you figure that the average person only incurs about $6000 in employer spending. That was enough to get them in the Wall Street Journal
A second example (and there are many more) is the Koop Award given to Health Fitness Corporation for lying about saving the lives of cancer victims who never had cancer. The coverup of that fabrication was the lead story about Nebraska, along with whether Ron Goetzel had committed an actual crime, as opposed to simply snookering the rather gullible state, whose reaction when they found out is best described as Human Resources-meets-Stockholm Syndrome.
Mr. Goetzel defended his actions by saying that lying about saving the lives of cancer victims was overlooked by the awards committee, and what really earned Nebraska the award was saving $4.2 million by reducing 186 risk factors. Let’s calculate the WTF from that.
the absolute reduction in risk was 0.17 (1.72 to 1.55) on a scale of 7, or roughly 2.4%. That represents about 180 people out of 5199 reducing a risk factor. (Of course, the remaining 15,000 of the 20,000+ state employees dropped out and/or wanted nothing to do with this program, but that’s a different story. So much winning!)
And yet somehow, despite only 180 people claiming to reduce a risk factor, the program saved $4.2-million, or $807 apiece for the total 5199 people. That yields a WTF of 336.
Speaking of Koop Awards, The Koop Award Committee is known for its embrace of WTF arithmetic, and it’s that time of year again during which they put their very good brains on full display. For instance, they once gave an award to Pfizer for saving $9 million, or roughly $300 per employee. How did Pfizer do that? With a 2% risk factor decline. Pfizer’s WTF worked out to about 150.
As a sidebar, Pfizer’s award application includes our all-time favorite displays:
Pfizer’s wellness team sent employees emails on weight control tips. Those who opened the messages lost about 3 ounces while those who did not open the messages gained 2 ounces. That could easily be accounted for by the number of calories required to open the emails.
The 2019 Koop Award
Most recently, the very stable geniuses just gave an award to Baylor Medical School, where, in keeping with tradition, risk factors declined by a whopping 1% — at least among the 25% of the workforce willing to be screened twice (!!!) a year to earn a 20% premium reduction. Let’s take a looksee at the biometric screening results:
The claimed savings — in keeping with Koop Award tradition, buried deep on another page — were $333/year, yielding a WTF of 320.
For any readers out there with the IQs of a Koop Award Committee member, let me spell out the pattern you’re seeing: the wellness industry’s own data yields WTFs 150 to 336 times greater than the wellness industry’s own guidebook estimates.
If anyone would like to reach me to review this arithmetic, or report their own vendor’s results, contact me directly. Schedule-wise, I’m not available today (Monday) or Tuesday. However I am available later this week, specifically WTF.
Attention, employers with wellness programs: this is bigger than broccoli.
No employee bankruptcy has ever been attributed to a broccoli deficiency. By contrast, surprise medical bills like this one are the #1 source of bankruptcies, wage garnishments and lawsuits against employees. You may have a stress management vendor and a financial wellness vendor, But their programs don’t cover the #1 source of avoidable stress related to financial wellness, for the simple reason that they don’t know how.
The Validation Institute is doing a webinar describing an actual cure for employee surprise medical bills for emergency visits and admits. it features the leading experts in pricing and surprise billing, including the bestselling author of The Price We Pay, Dr. Marty Makary. Here is the invitation.
October 31st webinar featuring bestselling author Dr. Marty Makary: A “cure” for employees’ surprise medical bills
You think Halloween is scary? Try surprise medical bills. That’s the subject of this groundbreaking October 31st webinar (register here).
Surprise bills may or may not be the #1 source of workplace stress – but they are certainly the #1 avoidable source of workplace stress. 57% of Americans report receiving one on the last five years. If you have not received complaints from employees about them, or noticed wages being garnished by providers, that’s probably because your health benefit is so generous that you are paying these bills without realizing it…inflating your own costs unnecessarily.
And yet there is a “cure,” at least for surprise bills related to emergency visits and admissions. The Validation Institute and Health Rosetta have assembled what they call the “dream team” of experts in pricing and consent-to-treatment to show you – in a mere hour – how to put the kibosh on this scourge. Presenters include:
- New York Times-bestselling author Dr. Marty Makary, whose blockbuster healthcare exposé, The Price We Pay, has already changed some outrageous hospital billing practices, will describe what consent-to-treatment entails, and why your employees should never just sign the forms thrust in front of them
- Industry pricing gurus Marilyn Bartlett (who saved Montana tens of millions through payment reform) and Health Rosetta-accredited broker-of-the-year Dave Contorno will provide a quick lesson in how to avoid paying inflated charges generally
- Quizzify CEO and trade-bestselling author Al Lewis will then combine these experts’ insights into an elegant one-sentence sticker to add to an insurance card that caps charges and avoids overtreatment…while ensuring employees get the care they need.
Attendees will be able to begin solving the surprise medical bills problem within weeks or even days. If you combine Quizzify’s quizzes with the solution as described in the webinar, it will do to surprise medical bills for emergency care what garlic does to vampires.
The. Numbers. Don’t. Add. Up.
Listen to the Podcast with healthcare guru Stacy Richter to find out why. Here’s what she has to say;
Employers are getting wise to a lot of things right now. I’d suggest a fast follow-on is going to be their view of these wellness programs. It will be interesting to see if current vendors are able to compete with the newer solutions that actually work and which employees actually appreciate. It will also be interesting to see if there’s any backlash against the supply chain that continues to offer up these solutions, especially given some of the lawsuits that are currently under way and all the research which is eminently available.
After about ten people wrote in looking to hear an interview with him, in this health care podcast I’m honored and pleased to speak with the one and only Al Lewis. Al is basically synonymous with wellness programs’ analysis and evaluation. One of my favorite things about Al is that he is as controversial as he is respected. He’s been called both “the founding father” of disease management, and he’s also been called the “troublemaker-in-chief” of the wellness industry. Regardless of your opinion of Al’s views, his integrity and commitment and rigorous analytical approach is open and shut. Al is the author of two books, which you can find in the show notes. He’s also the CEO of Quizzify. Quizzify is a company and an approach that teaches employees how to get the care they need while avoiding the “care” they don’t. Quizzify’s claims have been validated, by the way, by the Validation Institute.
Here’s the link. Happy listening (unless you’re an outcomes-based wellness vendor).