Wellness programs indeed have their place and can offer some nice incentives, such as this article states, but both individuals were relatively healthy people and were probably already in a pretty good place with exercise and how they took care of themselves, thus for them it worked and found a couple other potential chronic care items, such as cholesterol as mentioned, and for the one couple it has been a success.  Also, stated is that not very many employees have enrolled.  You might possibly guess perhaps some of the ones who have not chose to opt in might be people who are overweight as an example, or even perhaps those who are already taking care of their health and feel they are adequately taken care of by their family physician. 

The incentives don’t come without ties though, good or bad.  Of course there is lot more information being maintained by a 3rd party normally outside of the employer data bases, so what enters here is who do you trust.  The 3rd party will have more information and if it is the insurance company or subsidiary there of, well there goes your information and shared with the MIB (Medical Insurance Bureau) for any other insurer to review.  If you are pretty healthy this is not a real big concern, but if you were to leave the employer and have to buy insurance on your own, all this information and if there was perhaps a long history of treatments documented, could work against you as far as qualifying for a private policy, as there have been stories, and I have posted them on this blog as well relative to that factor.

Just earlier this week I posted an article on the Human Audit Trail, a new device coming out to monitor your exercise activity and I pose the question will this be the next device used in coordinating with Wellness Programs?   The one company below stated they are going to mandate “risk management assessment” next year since they had a low number of respondents, so again if that is the case here are we talking about better health care or just risk management in the hopes that it will create better health.  They also said the assessments use biometric measurements, which was left a little vague in description.  There has to be a balance whereby risk management is not the entire driving force, but rather a more friendly type of program to offer help.  As you can see the minds of the employers are shifting from having the program being an option to a requirement and once that is done, what’s next, the human audit trail devices that will keep tabs on you, even when you sleep?

The reason I mention this is for an awareness as there is nobody minding the shop on this kind of activity and before you know it, it’s there.  We still have to act and carry on normal human lives without wellness and technology becoming intrusive.  By now we have all pretty much accepted the fact that risk management has no interest in our health, bottom line, they just want to save money and if you happen to get healthier along the way then it is seen as a win-win.  But what happens if you don’t get healthier?  That’s the sticky part and who and what do you blame?  When the algorithms are ran for business intelligence type decisions, the numbers are what usually speak and you could end up just being a bad risk or if your projected healthcare needs extend beyond what has been determined as acceptable risk and cost, again another sticky area here when your healthcare costs exceeds the complicated formulas used. 

Some of these incentives are almost like using the discount card at the grocery store, as your reward is saving money for allowing the store to collect information on your shopping habits, which in turn helps them manage products, personnel, etc. in a better fashion, same thing here, your health is being added to a data base for analytical purposes in risk management.  

Myself, I would prefer a data base program where I am in control on what I feel I want to share, and if I decided to share it with a Wellness program then that would be my decision. I feel my physician is my wellness coach overall and that is the opinion that really counts as he knows me and my health better and can guide me in the proper directions.  Sure he may send me to the web to read up, but today’s patients expect that as everything cannot be covered in the 15 minute appointment.  Let’s face it the only reasons that the Wellness Coach is there is to ultimately save money and if the employer was not in such a pinch due to rising insurance costs, they wouldn’t give it a second thought as they are busy enough with just running a business today.

Wellness programs do save money, no doubt, but are they over stepping the line of balance?  BD

Debbie and Larry Ward of Jefferson, Md., each get $75 from Debbie's company when they go for their annual physicals. Arlington County police officer Darrin Cassedy received a two-night hotel stay in Florida and an MP3 player from his employer for losing weight and exercising. Sandy Colaccino of Silver Spring has access to free primary and urgent care at her job, a resource that she believes saved her from serious illness.

The Wards collected $150 in gift cards by taking the assessments. In the past two years, the Wards have received an additional $300 for getting their annual physicals, which are free under the company health plan.

For most workers, the trends in employer-based health insurance are downright depressing, with average premiums for family coverage jumping 119 percent since 1999, to $12,680 this year, according to Kaiser.  More important, when a Lafarge nurse visited the company's Frederick site last summer, Ward got a mini checkup, which revealed that her blood pressure had spiked since her last doctor's visit. Next year, the firm will add incentives for those enrolling in nurse-monitored disease management programs.

Even with a $50 incentive, not many workers completed the assessment. "We are going to be mandating health risk assessment," Brusca says. In that way Cigna, which administers company benefits, will "know what to focus on and reach out."

Local Motion participants receive a pedometer, water bottle, weekly incentive gifts, e-mail newsletters, and advice from a registered nurse and fitness experts. Participants are tracked through biometric measurements before and after joining the program.

Related Reading:

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Discrimination and Health Insurance: Big Brother in the Workplace and Beyond

Sorry, folks, but it’s true: You are for sale

When you are denied health insurance

Firms Offer Payouts to Those Who Work Out - washingtonpost.com


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