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

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

2010's Top 10 Developments in Employee Wellness

Here, in no particular order, are the Employee Wellness Network‘s picks for 2010′s Top 10 Developments in Employee Wellness:

  1. The Washington Post reveals what most employee benefit managers long suspected: “Misleading claims about Safeway wellness incentives shape health-care bill.” Safeway disagrees.
  2. A new study lends credence to return-on-investment (ROI) claims. In the February issue of Health Affairs, a meta-analysis suggests that medical costs fall by $3.27 and absenteeism costs fall by $2.73 for every dollar spent on employee wellness programs.
  3. A newer study casts doubt on ROI claims. In July 2010, a study by the National Institute for Health Care Reform concludes, “ROI is uncertain and measurement Continue reading