Obamacare Employee Wellness Backfiring


Have you heard of the ‘workplace wellness’ provision in the Affordable Care Act? Many people haven’t.

Contained within the national socialist healthcare plan is a provision that encourages employers to pay or fine employees depending upon their health and what they do to either improve or harm their health. Workplace wellness, also referred to as ‘employee wellness’ is one of the few provisions within Obamacare that finds support on both sides of the political aisle.

Like most of the provisions found in Obamacare, workplace wellness is not the success it was supposed to be and that’s not just the claim being made by opponents, but from proponents of the program as well.

Two of the leading wellness advocacy groups, Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) and Population Health Alliance (PHA), formed a joint committee of wellness experts to look at the plans of various vendors. Together they produced a report titled: Program Measurement & Evaluation Guide: Core Metrics for Employee Health Management.

Al Lewis, author of Surviving Workplace Wellness, summarized the report, saying:

“Yet despite its pro-wellness agenda, this expert report admits wellness harms both employee morale and corporate reputations. The report categorizes these two concerns as ‘tangential costs’ of wellness. As a former CEO of a NASDAQ company, I disagree with that assessment. My shareholders would have demanded a major financial benefit to even slightly jeopardize those assets.”

“Alas, the report claims no financial benefit, major or otherwise. It optimistically lists wellness’s gross annual savings as about $12 per employee (“optimistically” because US government data shows that the 23 percent reduction in heart attacks and related admissions they attribute to their wellness program happened to match the 23 percent reduction in heart attacks that took place everywhere over the same multi-year period). In other words, most major corporations are subjecting millions of employees to demeaning weigh-ins and uncomfortable (plus, often inaccurate or misinterpreted) blood draws…all to save the price of lunch.”

“And that’s before counting costs. The report optimistically pegs costs at $18 per employee (‘optimistically’ because page 10 of the report itself lists 11 other costs besides program fees — and the $18 includes only program fees).”

“There are four reasons this report’s candid comparison of costs and savings was probably unintentional. First, these two figures appeared on different pages (15 and 23) without referencing each other.”

“Second this report is chock full of disinformation in support of wellness, including a statement for which these 39 ‘experts’ spurned a million-dollar reward they could have collected by demonstrating that they knew how to apply fifth-grade math to a simple word problem.”

“Third, this is not exactly an industry known for its integrity: promoters of the ironically named C. Everett Koop Award almost always bestow it upon customers of its own sponsors and/or their own committee members, regardless of merit. In one case, the award-winning sponsor of the Nebraska state employee program admitted lying about saving the lives of cancer victims who it turns out never had cancer in the first place. Technically that’s fraud in a state contract, but the leader of the Koop Award committee called it a ‘best practice.’ Twice.”

“Fourth, this is an industry prone to gaffes. They Said What? Lists forty-five vendors who apparently can’t add or subtract, can’t construct a coherent sentence and in one case didn’t even spell the name of its founder correctly — unless, that is, it really was founded by the inventor of the all-you-can-eat self-serve restaurant, Warren Buffet.”

Lewis goes on to describe how one health provider, Aetna, has taken the wellness program so far as to encourage employers to start putting obese employees on medications to reduce their weight. He also reports that the medications being pushed by Aetna have such hazardous side effects that the Journal of the American Medical Association have warned against using.

The bottom line is that the only provision supported by both political parties is more of a negative than a positive and appears to be backfiring from achieving its very purpose. It’s resulted in more harassment of employees by their employers, causing lower employee morale while having little health or financial benefits to the employees or employers.

Like the rest of Obamacare, workplace wellness should be scrapped before it does any more harm to millions of employees throughout the nation.

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