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Health Economist Blasts Wellness Programs



Disease management expert and author Al Lewis lays out his case against health-contingent wellness programs: The concept of health risk assessments "is advice opposite of what doctors tell you to do. The arithmetic can't save money. Every vendor who reports savings lies."



6 comments on "Health Economist Blasts Wellness Programs"
Bryan Noar (7/17/2013 at 8:12 PM)

This was just published today ... based on the numbers, perhaps it should be considered for workplace wellness programs: http://markets.cbsnews.com/cbsnews/news/read/24655964/Workplace_Wellness_Cost_Analysis
Al Lewis (7/16/2013 at 7:35 PM)

Thank you for the thoughtful comments. Mr. Broner, perhaps it won't surprise you to know that many hospitals serve junk in their cafeterias AND have wellness programs. The goal of the hospital is for employees to eat on-site rather than spend time going elsewhere, so they serve what people like to eat.
Steve Lippert (7/16/2013 at 2:52 PM)

Author paints with such a broad brush. After telling us what a waste most wellness programs are, he then suggest building trails, workout facilities etc. Now who benefits from that? Of course, all the motivated healthy people that probably aren't your problem anyway. Bottom line to me is that if people choose to live unhealthy, no amount of coaxing may change that. But at least they can PAY more for their unhealthy behavior. Our author doesn't seem to consider/understand that.
M. Bennet Broner, PhD (7/16/2013 at 1:28 PM)

In opposition, some hospitals I am familiar with spend money to keep you unhealthy. In one case, the cafeteria served very high fat food. Their explanation was that this is the food employees wanted. As the hospital was the only one in a rural area, it was the only place 'ill' employees could go to for care. In another instance, a clinic which serves many elderly with chronic diseases sponsors a snack bar with high fat/high carb. pastries. They have indicated they will not change as the food generates profit, as does I suspect, exacerbations of chronic illnesses.
J. Kuriyan (7/16/2013 at 9:45 AM)

This is a provocative article and hope it will begin a serious discussion amongst the "lemmings" that invest in HRAs and wellness programs without adopting an adequate metric for performance. A point not made in the column is the fact that wellness vendors are often paid more than primary care doctors i8n managed care - meaning these programs are not cheap- and need to be managed prudently. Consultants big and small must be scrutinized and their performance subject to measurements as well.
Jane the blue collar worker (7/16/2013 at 1:58 AM)

My employer spends a ton of money on so called "Wellness Activities" for employees. The incentive is "credit" towards the high annual deductible. When we jump through these hoops, yet another company is responsible to reimburse our deductible cost when we incur medical expenses. Problem: There are so many players involved it takes time to keep track of reimbursements, they happen slowly or not at all. And regardless the high deductible must be paid whether or not you ever see the "credit" for all the wellness activities you participated in. For all the money spent on vendors and these games, I could have a zero, or at least low deductible plan and actually get the healthcare I need rather than worry about how to pay for it myself and then call 6 different people to follow up each time, even though I did my part. Which by the way includes a big portion of my monthly earnings. If pay more with money and time by both employer and employee, with less benefits to the employee and their family is the goal...Then keep up the good work.