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Wellness Puts CEOs on a Collision Course with Obamacare and Common Sense

flying cadeuciiBy now readers of this and many other outlets know that conventional workplace wellness doesn’t work. Period. It’s not that there is no evidence for it. It’s far more compelling: all the evidence is against it. The so-called “evidence” in favor of it is easily disproven as being the result of gross incompetence and/or dishonesty. And occasionally, as in the American Journal of Health Promotion, investigators in this field manage to disprove their own savings claims without intending to, “face invalidity” as it might be termed.  This is not an isolated event: analytic self-immolation happens so often that Surviving Workplace Wellness even has a line about it:  “In wellness, you don’t have to challenge the data to invalidate it.  You merely have to read the data.  It will invalidate itself.”

Just before Thanksgiving, both Health Affairs (with our blog post which, given the events we are about to describe, seems almost prescient) and the often-misquoted author of multiple RAND studies (in a comment to that post) weighed in with the same conclusion, as described in the headline: “Workplace Wellness Produces No Savings.”

The article, Health Affairs most widely read posting of November and one of the most widely read of the year, was described to me as the wellness equivalent of the 1912 Armory Show, as being the seminal event that immediately changed the field forever. No longer could anyone claim with a straight face that “pry, poke, prod and punish” wellness programs saved money, or were even beneficial for employee health.

And yet…

Within one business day of this posting, Reuters’ Sharon Begley reports that on Tuesday, December 2, the Business Roundtable’s (BRT’s) CEO is having a sit-down meeting with President Obama to demand exactly the opposite of what all the evidence shows: more flexibility and less enforcement to do wellness as the ACA empowers them to.  In particular, they want the Administration to call off the EEOC watchdogs, who have recently attacked Honeywell  and others for forcing its employees into medical exams that appear to violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The BRT’s goal is to allow companies to punish unhealthy workers to the limits of the Affordable Care Act’s wellness provision.  (Recall from our earlier postings that the ACA wellness provision itself was modeled after the Safeway wellness program, which Safeway later admitted did not even exist during the period for which the company claim it saved money.) In essence, the BRT leadership wants to make their employees love wellness whether they like it or not.

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