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Old 09-09-2014, 08:37 AM   #21
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The Megacorp I retired from started doing this 3 years ago. Each year there are more tests and fewer rewards. I had to go by the rumors this year as I have gone to an ACA policy.

Here's the odd thing, Megacorp is self insured. There's a insurance company that front ends mega, but mega pay all costs. Someone from the insurance company apparently sold mega on the notion these programs save money. Maybe they do?
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Old 09-09-2014, 09:15 AM   #22
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Photoguy and midpack made some great points that I won't repeat here. I approach this issue from multiple points of view since I'm a retired actuary (property-casualty, not health) and had one of these Wellness plans at my last employer, along with an HDHP. In my case it was a no-brainer; I'm blessed with excellent health and my diet and exercise habits keep me out of doctors' offices except for preventative screenings and the occasional case of poison ivy. I racked up enough points in the program that I was able to cash them in for $430 in Amazon credits before I resigned.

First of all, I'd be as upset as you are about the employer requiring that a spouse who's not insured under the plan get their health screening. It's easy for me to argue that if the employer has a stake in your health care costs, they can compel participation, but in your case, it makes no sense. And of course you can't raise a stink because it might reflect badly on your husband.

I'm a bit skeptical of wellness programs. My employer did a thorough analysis of the healthcare costs of those who were "engaged" (basically racked up enough brownie points in the program through on-line courses on nutrition, regular checkups, screening, workouts uploaded from devices such as pedometers and heart rate monitors, etc.) vs. those who weren't. They were lower for those who were engaged, but what does that mean? Wouldn't the people with the worst issues (excess weight they can't lose, serious conditions that interfere with regular exercise) be more prevalent in the "non-engaged" group? In a similar program in a nearby major municipality, the activities were less well-monitored and employees were getting large-denomination gift cards for participation in Ironman triathlons and marathons- by their 3-year olds. Oops.

On the privacy issue- your concern is well-justified. FitBit, a manufacturer of one of the devices accepted by my employer's program, has announced that they will stop selling user's data to marketers. We really need more regulation and disclosure about what happens to your workout data after you upload it.

Having said that- there are tons of people walking around with conditions that are manageable with diet and exercise. If we can get them feeling better without doctor's visits, medication and surgery, we all win.
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Old 09-09-2014, 09:54 AM   #23
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I really don't think the company screening is a substitute for an annual physical at your Dr's office.
Very true, although for far too many these company screenings are the 1st or only health eval's they get. Sad fact is many folks just don't go for periodic physicals (even when covered by insurance). "Silent" conditions like high blood pressure & diabetes can go untreated for years until major complications happen, many of which could have been prevented. That's the big reason these programs save the companies $$$ in the long run (decreased overall HC costs, sick leaves, disabilities, etc.). Let's face it, if a Megacorp already had a health-conscious employee base then spending the $$ on these screenings would be a waste. This is one case where the cost-savings of Megacorp can also be in the best interest of the employee (improved health, better job security, even possibly more $$ for raises/profit sharing).

BTW- I do not see the loss of privacy issue. Employee privacy is already very limited. Companies (at least great majority which self-fund their benefits plans) already have a darn good idea of the overall health status of you (& family) via HI cost claims data.
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Old 09-09-2014, 09:56 AM   #24
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Health care sure has changed over my (previous) working lifetime.

When I started in a professional position at a company in the 1970s, there were no healthcare premiums for the employee or spouse/family. Healthcare was a benefit, "free". Seems incredible now! Did that really happen?!

Co. was bought by a Fortune 500 Megacorp, still all free for a bit, then had to pay a premium for spouse and family, but employee was still free. Then employee had a "nominal cost" premium. Then all the premiums slowly went up and up, then picking up speed no matter what the Megacorp.

I wonder what really changed in healthcare from the 1970's. Yeah, I know about the $$ new machines, the $$ new drugs, etc. etc., but I wonder if it was more "acceptable" to die back then. I occasionally ponder this. Is it "medicine", or lawsuit avoidance? Hmm, I don't know.
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Old 09-09-2014, 10:14 AM   #25
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Very true, although for far too many these company screenings are the 1st or only health eval's they get. Sad fact is many folks just don't go for periodic physicals (even when covered by insurance). "Silent" conditions like high blood pressure & diabetes can go untreated for years until major complications happen, many of which could have been prevented. That's the big reason these programs save the companies $$$ in the long run (decreased overall HC costs, sick leaves, disabilities, etc.).
I stayed out of doctors' offices for 10 years (approx. ages 42-52)- just went for regular mammograms. A Doc in the Box handled the poison ivy cases I mentioned earlier and a travel medicine clinic handled immunizations when I traveled to India. I had very good insurance. I just didn't want to waste time in doctors' offices. My regular blood donations let me know that my blood pressure was (and still is) enviably low. I average about one sick day every 2 years.

I finally went back after my mother's brush with breast cancer (a treatable case and she's fine), realizing that after a certain age you can't assume everything is fine just because you feel good. First thing the doc prescribes statins for my borderline high cholesterol. Within 6 months I had tendonitis so bad I couldn't eat with my right hand- raising a spoon to my mouth hurt too badly. I threw the darn pills away. The tendonitis is 95% gone. Saturday I'm scheduled for the "short" (36 miles!) portion of the MS Bike Ride. I'm still not convinced of the link between heart disease and cholesterol levels and will not take harmful meds just to correct an "abnormal" lab result. I still get regular checkups (just had bloodwork drawn this AM), but will not take meds for my cholesterol no matter what it is.

Sometimes going to the doctor creates more problems than it solves.
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Old 09-09-2014, 10:41 AM   #26
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I can understand the distaste of having to give out so much personal information to organizations because our employer wants us to. It is a by product of getting health insurance through work. That really needs to end or at least be reduced to more simple benefit like "We will give you a $3000 a year voucher to help pay for health insurance. After that it's your choice about the policy you purchase and where you get your care."

I doubt of most employers want to be in the business of providing health care to their employees.
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Old 09-09-2014, 10:44 AM   #27
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When we had DHs employer coverage they had a lot of preventative and chronic condition wellness plan incentives. It was all voluntary and the incentives were quite nice. I never felt it was intrusive. I never thought about if the info was kept private. Hmmm.

What the OP is describing is quite different. I don't blame you for feeling the need to rant.
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Old 09-09-2014, 11:05 AM   #28
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Too many employees are mindfully ignorant of health care costs and what a maddening system we have in the US (it's not a system at all, it's an antiquated hodgepodge with regulations that only make it more difficult for patients and providers).
As employee contributions to healthcare started rising by major leaps and bounds I started culling COBRA data from the internal website, year by year. That allowed me to look at what the total cost of the insurance was (employer and employee portion of the premiums). I could then look to see if the employee contribution was increasing as a percentage. No surprise, it was.

I was fortunate, and recognized it, that the employer was still paying a significant percentage - it went from 80% employer paid, to about 70% employer paid... But the cost sharing on the price increases definitely skewed to have the employer paying a greater share.

Cobra payment info was also a metric I tracked for years as part of my early retirement budget... a concrete number I could use to plug in my budget for healthcare. Maybe for that reason I was more in tune with what the total cost was, vs just the employee contribution.
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Old 09-18-2014, 01:40 PM   #29
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Like the auto insurance co. would like everyone to have monitoring devices installed in cars -(under their explanation that it will reduce premiums) - just wait for the health ins cos. to require 'implants' to monitor exactly how much you exercise, eat, drink....you know - to keep premiums down.
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Old 09-18-2014, 06:18 PM   #30
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Separating employment from health insurance is what I see as the main benefit of the ACA and I hope to see employers, especially government employers, stop offering health insurance in the future.
"Especially" government employers? Why?
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Old 09-18-2014, 06:45 PM   #31
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I can understand the frustration, but you can't complain about the cost of health care and at the same time complain about the company's efforts to fight cost increases.
+1. Exactly. The less the spend on health care, the more money they have for the bonus pool. I'd rather get a big fat bonus check. Plus, it has pushed DH into watching his cholesterol, diet, etc., without me nagging at him. My megacorp is doing it for me. Thank you megacorp. I only have three more years, and then I'll have to resume this duty.
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Old 09-18-2014, 10:14 PM   #32
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That really needs to end or at least be reduced to more simple benefit like "We will give you a $3000 a year voucher to help pay for health insurance. After that it's your choice about the policy you purchase and where you get your care."
One post-retirement employer I had did exactly that or close enough. Instead of health insurance, we were paid directly $3.31 an hour for "health & welfare" that was to be used for health insurance if you wanted/needed it and for beer or whatever if you didn't. This was required by the federal contract.

Since I and many others already had health insurance from previous employers we bought "beer or whatever" with it.
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Old 09-18-2014, 10:35 PM   #33
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Decoupling does seem to be an essential first step.

I can understand the frustration, but you can't complain about the cost of health care and at the same time complain about the company's efforts to fight cost increases. While working I was exposed first hand to employee complaints/expectations AND to managing cases/costs/regulations - there are two valid sides to the debate. Most (not all) company's that offer health care benefits (a legacy for most) absorb a far greater portion of health care expenses than do employees themselves. Too many employees are mindfully ignorant of health care costs and what a maddening system we have in the US (it's not a system at all, it's an antiquated hodgepodge with regulations that only make it more difficult for patients and providers).

The root of the problem is the cost of health care in the US, about double that of every other country in the world. When we (consumers, voters) attack the causes for the high cost of health care in the US (discussed at length in many other threads), company's won't be caught in the middle trying to deal with health care.

"We" shouldn't be surprised when a company's efforts to rein in health care costs, to the benefit of employees, are sometimes misguided. I can assure you your company would rather not deal with health care, something way outside their core competency for most companies.

I completely agree the first step is to decouple healthcare with unemployment. The most important thing I got out of the healthcare debate is that there just isn't a silver bullet solution to controlling health care in the country.

A huge problem is that payers and beneficiaries not only have wildly different incentives, in many case they don't even know who the ultimate persons is who writes the check. I don't know for years that my Megacorp was self funded for insurance. It turns out that most Fortune 500 firm are, and there is a big business called captive insurance. So ultimately if your lifestyle results in lung cancer or type two diabetes the cost to pay for the treatment means lower profits for them.

Now as part owner of your megacorp, I like to see higher profits, which generally leads to higher dividends, which means more income for me.
So while I am sympathetic the hassle involved, to be honest a big part of me is applauding their efforts.

Obviously this is only helpful if these incentives work to reduce costs. Financial incentive do change behavior but it is far from foolproof. A $1,000 maybe enough to convince Joe to stop smoking but it may take $10K for Jill, and you could offer Bill $1 million and still smoke 3 packs/day. I invested in one company developing technology to help reduce/control health care cost and seen presentation by a dozen others. I know companies are struggling to find what works.

The only good thing about linking insurance to employment is that at least companies have incentive to reduce cost.
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Tired of company butting into our healthcare...
Old 09-19-2014, 06:56 AM   #34
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Tired of company butting into our healthcare...

The sleeper cases these biometric screenings uncover truly saves people's lives. And yes, they save the employer money (and this trickles down to the employee premiums) I understand how distrusting employees are when change is implemented, and took a lot of verbal abuse. I even received a scathing letter from a (overweight) paralegal calling participating being linked to premiums extortion. Of course I shared the letter with the CEO. But truly, a ridiculous percent of us don't get proper preventive care, even when it's covered at 100%. I can say, as the employer, I did not receive, nor care to receive, individualized data on my employees. Just stats from BCBS on who participated so I could properly reduce their premiums. I still agree this program, and the whole current state of our healthcare system, is a mess. That's one reason I retired at 53. But nothing was as satisfying as the 4 people who thanked me for a program that helped them get early intervention for serious life threatening conditions they would have otherwise not discovered.


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Old 09-19-2014, 08:00 AM   #35
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Marketplace (NPR program) had a piece on yesterday about how big these wellness programs are and that they don't really improve heatlh.

It's a 6 billion dollar industry.

Pros
- rates for employers are being held in check.

Cons
- some of that is because rates for employees are going up because they flunk the wellness program and had increased premiums
- they haven't been shown to improve employee heath.

From the podcast blurb:
Quote:
"What's really happening in many instances is that costs are getting shifted to employees, whether it's because they don't meet certain goals or they don't conform in certain ways," she says. "Healthcare costs are going down for companies, but not so much for individuals and families."

And they're not having any lasting effects on their health, either, she adds.

"All these incentives, all these hurdles, greatly increase the cost of testing employees. So these things are more costly than you might think."
The shortcomings of the corporate wellness program | Marketplace.org
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Old 09-19-2014, 08:04 AM   #36
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Old 09-19-2014, 08:32 AM   #37
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I can understand the frustration, but you can't complain about the cost of health care and at the same time complain about the company's efforts to fight cost increases.
+1. Exactly. The less the spend on health care, the more money they have for the bonus pool. I'd rather get a big fat bonus check. Plus, it has pushed DH into watching his cholesterol, diet, etc., without me nagging at him. My megacorp is doing it for me. Thank you megacorp. I only have three more years, and then I'll have to resume this duty.
Well, it might depend on HOW they are attempting to save money. The biometric screening is a method where there is a little money saved and the medical industrial complex maintains or enhances their profits (and protects their inefficiencies). What if it were required that health outcomes be public, reasonable prices that people actually pay were public, so people could actually shop effectively? That would be the kind of cost savings that would make a difference, not this piddly little shell game with biometric screening.
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Old 09-19-2014, 08:45 AM   #38
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As a preferred employer in a competitive market, we were committed to paying no less than 85% of the health care costs, and we kept that commitment. The last two years I was there, we absorbed the premium cost increases as a gesture of goodwill. It's a really tough task and not all employers are just trying to get by by with as little expense as possible, especially if you want to keep a valued technical workforce.
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Old 09-20-2014, 11:33 PM   #39
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By the tax code, the politicians in the US, long ago, gave employers control over whatever health insurance (disease/injury management insurance) that was offered to their employees. What would make more logic would be individuals being able to deduct from their tax filings their chosen insurance premiums.
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Old 09-21-2014, 09:15 AM   #40
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With the explosion in wearable technology (Apple Watch, Fitbit, Nike Fuelband, etc.), we are only a few steps away from insurance companies having access to all of our health data. Would you want to save $1,500 a year if you allowed your health insurance company to know the number of steps you took, your weight, body fat percentage and how many days a week you had at least 30 minutes of cardio?
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