(If you're not a Journal subscriber, try searching for the article's headline: When Your Boss Makes You Pay for Being Fat.)
Michelin North America, Inc. is mentioned prominently in the Journal article. Michelin's wellness program used to reward employees for completing a health risk assessment or "participating in a nonbinding 'action plan' for wellness," but the company saw little behavior change. Now, Michelin employees receive $1,000 toward their annual deductibles only if their cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, and body composition numbers fall in predetermined ranges.
If employees don't qualify based on their biometric screening results, they have to enroll in health coaching -- but their incentive will be less.
Michelin is using ideal targets. That means if your total cholesterol is greater than 200 (let's say) or your blood pressure is greater than 120/80, you simply don't qualify. Here are my two cents:
- As described, Michelin's original wellness program (HRA, plus a non-binding "action plan") was unlikely to bring lasting results. A health assessment is a wonderful tool for wellness program development, but it rarely brings results on its own.
- Asking at-risk employees to enroll in health coaching makes perfect sense, but docking their incentive does not. If higher-risk employees are making a genuine effort, they should receive the full incentive.
We recommend introducing outcomes-based incentives gradually, only after the wellness program has become part of the culture. Choose a vendor who truly understands your needs and your population before taking the leap. Avoid hard-line tactics and instead reward higher-risk employees who are trying!