Do Employees Cheat for Wellness Incentives?

Do employee wellness program participants cheat in order to collect incentives?

CC Image courtesy of La Tête Krançien on Flickr

In the shadowy corners of the incentive debate — eclipsed by overstated cases for and against wellness incentives’ capacity to evoke change — lurk equally important tales of intrigue, greed, conspiracy, fraud, and hubris. They are tales that have been told only in bits and pieces, without context, concealing by omission a wellness pitfall of unknown depth.

It was the middle of the 2012 holiday season when many of us first heard about it, in headlines like, Workers Indicted for Defrauding Employer-Sponsored Wellness Program. Upon closer examination, we learned that six Kansas City (Missouri) employees and one from Jackson County were indicted for defrauding the wellness incentive program provided, through their employer, by their health plan. The program awarded gift cards and debit cards to employees who self-reported, on the plan’s website, completion of wellness activities. According to many initial reports, these employees collected $310,960 by falsely claiming they had completed triathlons, marathons, and other strenuous events. But there was more to it than that. Continue reading

Penn State Wellness: Fear and Loathing in Happy Valley, PA

Main entrance of Old Main, at Penn State Unive...

Main entrance of Old Main at Penn State University, in an area of Pennsylvania sometimes referred to as Happy Valley. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You’ve heard by this time, no doubt, that employees at Penn State University are protesting the university’s “wellness program.” I put wellness program in quotation marks because, to my mind, a health risk assessment, preventive exam, and biometric health screening don’t qualify as a true wellness program. But that’s what Penn State is asking employees to do — complete an online HRA, attest to an  up-to-date preventive physical exam, and get screened, or suffer the consequence of an extra $100 per month surcharge. My definition of wellness program may not be pertinent. But that’s par for the course, as this entire affair is peppered with loosely connected characters, claims, and calls-to-action that obscure some of the most pressing issues the university community faces.

In case you’ve been summering on a remote island, here’s what’s been simmering at Penn State: Continue reading

Mayo’s Incentive and Obesity Study: Overplayed, Undisclosed, or Undermined?

The Mayo Clinic announced yesterday a study showing that “financial incentives help weight loss study participants drop pounds, stick with program.” The study will be presented tomorrow at the American College of Cardiology conference in San Francisco. The findings are already attracting more than their fair share of media attention, but [spoiler alert!] there may be more to this story than meets the eye. Continue reading

Behavioral Economists Challenge Outcomes-Based Wellness Incentives

I’ve had to eat so much crow since I started posting on this blog, you’d think I would’ve acquired a taste for it by now. My latest sampling was served up courtesy of  behavioral economists and their connection, or lack thereof, to outcomes-based employee health incentives.

In one of my least popular posts ever, Be Afraid: Behavioral Economics and Outcomes-Based Wellness (May 2011), I criticized corporate benefits managers who, I argued, relied on the research of behavioral economists to Continue reading

Buddy System Trumps Incentives in New Study

A new study that flew under the radar of most wellness professionals may have major implications for our understanding of how to influence health behavior and the role of outcomes-based incentives. Continue reading