WDEL Blog: Allan Loudell

Wellness programs: Logical way to make us healthy & cut health-care costs? Or major intrusion on your freedom?

If you care about improving people's health care choices AND reducing the upward spiral of health care costs, YET fear government and/or your employer infringing on your personal freedom AND the burden of wellness programs particularly on poor people... this issue ought to tie you into knots: Employee Wellness Plans.

Corporate America is latching on to these programs to improve its bottom line, but do workers necessarily benefit? (And in the end, do even the corporations benefit that much?) What about working, lower-income people who may not be able to afford to buy fruits and veggies, who have neither the time nor the money to join some recreational program (unless the employer offers free workplace gyms, nutrition classes, etc.)?

Check out this article from NATIONAL JOURNAL: "Why Those Wellness Programs Don't Work".

Note part of the final paragraph:

"...And the law does not require that programs be scientifically proven to enhance health or lower spending. The workers at highest risk of failing the commonly used tests tend to be poor, or members of racial-minority groups. The plans typically don't measure risk factors that might drive up spending among more-affluent workers--- driving a fast car or running so many miles that a knee replacement may be needed..."


http://www.nationaljournal.com/magazine/why-those-wellness-programs-don-t-work-20130411


A couple of weeks ago, the health-care/pharmaceutical contributor to FORBES - Bruce Japsen - wrote about companies such as the CVS pharmaceutical chain requiring employees to submit to biometric screenings which may include blood tests...


http://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2013/03/25/like-cvs-more-employers-penalize-workers-that-snub-wellness-exams/


What do you think? I realize one can always argue that if you don't want to subject yourself to such requirements, don't work for CVS. But, what happens if this becomes a trend among many employers? Doesn't this cross some line?




Posted at 8:24am on April 15, 2013 by Allan Loudell

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Comments on this post:

billsmith
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 8:51am
More pandering to the religious right? With their selective perception, the right calls employers' programs to get people to lose weight, eat better and stop smoking, an "intrusion on freedom." But not efforts to force employee's reproductive and marital choice. Not refusal to cover contraception or abortion. Not refusal to give benefits to same sex spouses. Oh, no! That's different.

And, given AllanLoudell's obvious obesity (the major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, adult onset diabetes among other serious health risk conditions), he could have an additional, more personal motive. Are his bosses raising the amount he must contribute to his health coverage? Full disclosure would be appropriate here.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 8:57am
You obviously didn't read the first article. It hardly comes across as a pander to the religious right. (And I agree with you about the hypocrisy, if one abhorred this type of intrusion, but not the other!)

I confess to being surprised that you - who shares my general disdain for Corporate America - chose not to focus on that element of this discussion.

And by the way, other than an aversion to blood tests, I have no personal motive.

You haven't see me in years.

I try to avoid meat, particularly red meat; any fried foods (I abhor the typical American breakfast!), and like to go out walking or hiking (Just did so yesterday). Prefer fruits & veggies.

Have gone years without being absent for anything health-related.

Allan Loudell

billsmith
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 10:13am
Allan Loudell: I have not seen you. I have seen the picture posted on this website. People who have gained weight keep using a "before" picture. People who have lost weight will use an "after" picture.

When you say "aversion" to blood tests: Nobody likes being punctured. Or do you have some objection beyond that?

Many company health plans include and require regular check-ups. Such check-ups do include lab work.

I have disdain for corporate America in many areas. I also believe people should be responsible for the consequences of their actions. Bad drivers should pay more for car insurance. People with unhealthy "lifestyles" should pay more for health and life insurance.

I am not saying, as some have, that employers can, and should refuse, to hire or retain obese people and smokers. Although I think with appropriate evidence, a legitimate case might be made for that some day. However, I don't think employers or fellow employees should have to pay the extra health-care costs from the "bad habits" of people in their insurance pools.

And from articles I've seen, some programs do work. It seems to vary widely with how the programs are set up and the incentives and disincentives offered.

The thrust of the National Journal article for me was that the poor (read "minorities") should be held to a different (read "lower") standard than others.

Forbes ("Capitalist Tool") basically says CVS uses both carrot and stick. There is evidence that regular check-ups are a good idea (although maybe not needed so often for younger people who feel well). Actuaries need the information. So do physicians, who need good histories, in order to treat people most effective when they do get sick. This is where it starts to sound like pandering to right-wing world, where people defend their right to be unvaccinated (and to go out and spread diseases).

Keep in mind it was selfish people defending their "rights" that made the AIDS epidemic so terrible. For other sexually-transmitted diseases, people have long been required to report all sexual contacts to health authorities (and physicians required to report all patients with STDs). But not for AIDS. Neither were health authorities allowed to close-down bath houses and similar venues. First do no harm applies to civil liberties as much as to medical practice.

We wouldn't have all these issues come up if Obama weren't such a wimp and hadn't taken single payer "off the table" before he even started working on health care reform. So, people have all these nits to pick, and the US continues to trail other developed countries on various health and longevity indices.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 10:45am
Thanks for some some thoughtful input! Actually, I hate the photo posted for me on this website. Have lost some pounds since. (To the extent that I've had suits altered - reduced - up to three times!)

Honestly, my aversion to needles - especially for drawing blood - is not some ideological objection, but simply physical/psychological. I basically go light-headed, faint, etc. So I haven't had a blood-test in years.

At some level, I DO think it's a bit much to require ANY invasive procedure as the price for one's employment.

While I philosophically concede the point that's it's unfair for workers to face increased insurance costs because of the unhealthful habits of their colleagues, it also seems that the corporate interest in keeping employees "healthy" may also (at some point) reduce employees to mere automatons - cogs in a wheel - serving only the interest of corporate profits.

Allan Loudell


billsmith
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 11:47am
"...it also seems that the corporate interest in keeping employees "healthy" may also (at some point) reduce employees to mere automatons - cogs in a wheel - serving only the interest of corporate profits."

Too late. No reduction needed. That's how management mostly sees employees. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Only difference now is with health care requirements and health care costs, corporations want healthy cogs.

When the "legal fiction" of corporations was first introduced, Andy Jackson warned this is what would happen.

Allan Loudell
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 11:53am
I'm afraid you're correct.

teatime
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 12:44pm

I'd support an increase in cigarettes and alcohol taxes to pay for health care for the uninsured.

The increase could get people to cut back, and is more fair so that increased health care costs are passed on to people who are more of a burden on our health care system.


dunmore
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 1:01pm
A Dutch study has shown that early deaths from smoking and obesity actually save society money, since the people die so much sooner that they don't use up health care resources.

Now, maybe the personal costs (effects on family and survivors) and corporate costs (absenteeism, premiums, etc) might be higher for smokers and the obese, but for society they are lower.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/05/health/05iht-obese.1.9748884.html?_r=0

This is nice for government since smokers and the obese are paying taxes during their most productive (and highest-paid) years, and then die off before they can collect their accrued benefits.

billsmith
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 2:20pm
teatime: In many states, tobacco settlement money is used to help fund health coverage for the poor and for seniors. Same for lottery proceeds.

Delaware, however, is noted for cheap butts (at least compared to other Northeast corridor states). I had a friend from New York who'd come down to visit. He knew all the cigarette shops in the area. He'd fill up a couple of big suitcases with cartons and go back up to New York and sell cigarettes to people in his neighborhood. He'd undercut the local bodegas and still make a very handsome profit. I guess there are some people who get a U-Haul and can make a good living off Delaware cigarettes, if they don't get caught. You used to hear stories about the PA state police staking out Delaware liquor stores looking for PA license plates (and then radioing the info back to police cars at the state line). I wouldn't be surprised if there are out-of-state cops at cigarette stores, too. Heck, the law says people have to pay sales tax on out-of-state purchases, maybe PA cops should nail people leaving shopping malls before Christmas, too.

teatime
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 2:50pm
I'd say Delaware should rely more on sin taxes (alcohol and tobacco) rather than being fixated on gambling money (Delaware casinos).

Higher taxes on cigarettes and alcohol cause people to reduce a harmful activity.

However, gambling (expansion of table games, sports betting, etc...) is promoting a harmful activity. Also, in less than one generation, we've forgotten that the original premise behind gambling in Delaware is to support the horsemen in Delaware's three racetracks. Gambling was not supposed to be a revenue source for balancing the state budget.


mrpizza
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 7:06pm
It's one thing for employers and insurance companies to require wellness programs. It's totally another for government requiring it. Now that health-care is eventually going to be 100% under government, you should be prepared for Nazi experimentation and other atrocities.

billsmith
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 7:58pm
mrpizza: You lie. No, Obama sold out and let the insurance companies still run things. You can be prepared for them to continue to rip you off. But in your case, they might be willing to cover a stay in a psychiatric hospital.

mrpizza
Mon, Apr 15, 2013 8:57pm
billsmith: The insurance companies still run things for now, but give it 10 years or so. It'll change.

billsmith
Tue, Apr 16, 2013 3:02am
"The insurance companies still run things for now, but give it 10 years or so. It'll change."

mrpizza: I certainly hope so. This system is unworkable. No matter how much they spend to buy-off congressmen, single-payer has been proven to work well in every other developed country. And none of them has Nazi experiments or death panels, not even Germany.

mrpizza
Tue, Apr 16, 2013 8:41pm
Well, just in case I'm right, I'm going to continue on the prevention route in hopes of not needing services from whomever is providing them.

billsmith
Tue, Apr 16, 2013 9:12pm
mrpizza: I'd have guessed you'd go the Oral Roberts route.

mrpizza
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 6:29am
billsmith: Oral Roberts was a very health-conscious man, which is probably why he lived to be 91 years old. A great man - a great example to follow.

billsmith
Thu, Apr 18, 2013 10:22am
mrpizza: Also a faith healer. "Put your hands on your television and BE HEEEEEEALED!" Or send money and he'd pray over your letter in his prayer tower.
Pat Robertson, in addition to changing the path of hurricanes, also heals people over TV.
If you send money to a faith healer, does the IRS consider it a religious donation or a payment for medical services?
Can a faith healer just bill Medicare?
Pizza is not very healthy. All the fat and cholesterol. Maybe you should change jobs and change your name to "mrsubway."

mrpizza
Sat, Apr 20, 2013 9:35am
billsmith: Just because I deliver pizza doesn't mean I totally live off it. Truth is, I eat very little of it. I also take Res-Q health supplements (1-800-26-ALIVE) and have my lipid profile checked quarterly. My numbers are getting better all the time.

I'm sure a contribution to Oral Roberts or Pat Robertson is recognized by the IRS to be the same as any other donation to a non-profit.

mrpizza
Sat, Apr 20, 2013 9:36am
billsmith: Oh, by the way, I did look into getting a job driving an ice-delivery truck. Had I done that, I was going to change my name to ICEMAN.


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