About Wellness Corporate Solutions

Friday, March 29, 2013

Punitive Wellness Incentives and a Tough Lesson for CVS

For those of us in the corporate wellness world, it goes without saying that wellness only works if people participate. But believe it or not, the idea of incentivizing wellness programs was relatively new just a few years ago. Companies might offer a cash incentive to complete a health assessment, or hand out gift cards for participating in a biometric screening, but few went beyond that.

Let me tell you -- times have changed.

More and more of our clients are asking about outcomes-based incentive programs -- tying incentives not just to participation but to actual results. Other companies tell employees that if they don't participate in certain ways, they'll have to pay up

CVS learned a tough lesson this week. When news broke that their wellness program will require employees to share certain health information or pay a $50 monthly penalty, the reaction in the media was swift. The move was seen as a corporate power-grab; a giveaway to "Big Pharma"; Big Brother run amok. At least so far, CVS is (unfortunately) losing the public-relations battle.

We're working on a white paper that discusses outcomes-based incentives, so stay tuned. In the meantime, let me offer a little off-the-cuff advice to HR professionals and benefits brokers. Rather than focus on penalties, earn employees' trust and participation the old fashioned way:
  • Get upper-management support and make sure they're vocal about the purpose of the program. 
  • Be crystal clear about how participants' data will be used and who will have access to it. 
  • Ask the population what they want. Survey them! And be sure you're working with a wellness vendor that designs unique, tailor-made wellness programming. (I know of one!)
What do you think about the CVS program? Is the criticism misguided, or do the naysayers have a point? Let me know by leaving a comment below.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I suppose that I can see where CVS is going with this, but as you stated... these programs only work with participation.

As far as simple business is concerned, the merit is there, i believe. Unhealthy employees cost employers more money than healthy ones. Therefore, requiring employees to provide these certain tidbits of personal information up front OR pay the penalty isn't a terrible concept. CVS is, I assume, simply trying to save money. From the employee standpoint though, the concept is one that is tough to grasp. "So you're telling me that if I DON'T care about being healthy and i DON'T want to give you that information, I have to pay?" That's difficult to process.

I feel CVS could have done a better job of presenting the idea across the board. Maybe instead of tacking a penalty onto the one's who do not participate, they incentivize participation, like that's a new concept! You just never know. That's the fun of dealing with people all day, we all react differently so trying to find something to work as an easy medium, much more difficult than one typically imagines.

Unfortunately, I believe CVS may be on the front lines of what is to come. I foresee a future where HRA's are as common in a pre-employment screening as a drug test. We are on the wake of some major changes in our industry where health and wellness aren't promoted for health and wellness sake, but to save a buck here and there. While I'll support making a healthy life change 8 days out of the week, I believe there is some serious consideration on how we make this move work on a unique corporate level.