If I had lost every pound of weight that was targeted in my many New Year’s resolutions, I may have created the universe’s largest “black hole vacuum”! Yet, every year many of us make the same commitment to get on a fitness program…but, this time to stick to it. This year, claims that formed the basis of the Wellness Provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have led to the explosion of what is now an estimated 8 billion dollar per year industry, with many employers instituting some form of Employee Wellness Program.
We all know the positive benefits of being in good condition, feeling better, and having more energy to apply to our jobs and recreational activities. But, are there downsides to promoting fitness programs that they become “quasi-mandatory”? Some doctors, like Jon Robinson, PhD, MS are speaking out and are going beyond simply cautioning that “overdoing it” can be harmful; they are suggesting the main bases for fitness incentives in the ACA, were made up – never happened.
Dr. Robinson contends that the approaches promoted by this so-called Safeway Amendment, heavily lobbied for by WW industry leaders, do not save money and are likely to have damaging effects on employees who find the approaches quite distasteful. The research is now clear that these programs don’t save money and likely don’t even pay for themselves. . The review of the relevant research in the New England Journal of Medicine by one the nation’s leading behavioral economists is quite clear:
“Although it may seem obvious that charging higher premiums for smoking (body mass index, cholesterol, or blood pressure) would encourage people to modify their habits to lower their premium evidence that differential premiums change health-related behavior is scant. Indeed, we’re unaware of any insurance data that convincingly demonstrate such effects.”
There are a multitude of articles touting the positive impact of Wellness Programs. Among them is an editorial in the American Journal of Health Promotion entitled, “Is It Time to Separate the Financial and Health Goals of Workplace Health Promotion Programs?” It supports the long-held beliefs that only good can come from being healthy so we should do everything possible to encourage everyone to become physically fit.
So, don’t let the varying views add strength to your procrastination during this New Year (instead of strong health), but research the intent and approach for any Employee Wellness Program you may want to implement as a concerned employer or participate in as an employee. Only then will you achieve the desired result – enthusiastic participation!