• Penn State backs down

    This didn’t take long:

    A $100 monthly surcharge for Penn State employees who fail to participate in a screening portion of a new wellness initiative has been waived by the University, according to President Rodney Erickson, who said his administration has clearly heard the concerns from faculty and staff on the issue. In addition, a joint task force will be formed to provide advice on the implementation of the program and on health benefits matters.

    More here.* Prior relevant posts by TIE contributors here and here.

    * This link is weird. You have to click through twice to get to the story. The first time won’t work. Trust me.


    • It was not about saving money by making people healthy. It was about saving money by docking some people the $1,200.

      To be fair to the Penn State Human Resources department, I don’t think they actually belived that doing this would improve employee health, and thus save money on health expenses. When they were asked whether there was evidence this would work, they seemed wholly unprepared for the question. I get the impression they never even thought about it, let alone tried to find out how whether such programs were effective.

      I think the plan was to impose some onerous requirements, ones that a significant number of employees would not meet, and then withhold premium support for those people. With thousands of employees, and $1,200 each, there was a lot of money to be made like this. Tell them all “paint yourselves blue, stand out on the football practice field at midnight, and bay at the moon, or we will raise your premiums by $1,200”. Some would not get the message, would refuse, forget, whatever. Penn State keeps the money.

      The tipoff is that the penalty applied not to poor health habits, but to failure to participate in the program. So a nonsmoking, vegan, competitive marathoner who valued her privacy would get docked, while a chain smoking, meat eating, couch potato who gave away his private information would not.

      Too bad about the publicity, it probably would have worked.

      • That’s pretty much how the wellness program at my employer operates. Penalty is $500/year, but it mainly seems to be about the financial incentives for employers to save money, rather than actual health improvements.