That’s the title and one of the main themes of a recent article which appeared in Quartz. It puts forth some hard questions about portions of employee wellness programs that often needlessly drive up health spending and not save money even in the long run. Here is an excerpt regarding the value of HRA’s from the article:
The advice from HRAs ranges from self-evident (vegetables are good for you and smoking isn’t) to simply incorrect………….It’s rare to find an HRA in which even half of the medical recommendations (as opposed to the self-evident lifestyle recommendations) reflect federal guidelines. The large majority of us don’t need glucose testing, and, due to the likelihood of false positives, we should not get routine EKGs, but most HRAs advise them anyway.
And biometric screenings:
Company-wide biometric screens generate even more potential for over-treatment by identifying mostly inconsequential health issues. For example, 40% of Nebraska state employees who were screened for cancer were told they were at high risk. Only 3% took steps to get better and overall claims costs allegedly fell the next year anyway, meaning these people weren’t at risk to begin with, and/or that the cost reduction figure was made up, like most others are. On the other hand, the low likelihood of actually preventing any consequential medical events means that the return on investment for screenings is always negative, as a matter of arithmetic, while as a matter of science, both the government and most experts oppose their annual use.
That brings us to preventive doctor visits, likely your largest and fastest-growing medical expense (pdf). The American Medical Association’s own journal says preventive visits increase diagnoses and drugs without improving health.
So what should you do then? Well, the article recommends turning over the employee wellness program to the finance department and people who are namely trained to run the numbers and ensure that wellness program investments are indeed prudent ones. It also recommends doing smaller, yet still highly meaningful things, that employee morale and productivity. These initiatives include healthier food choices in the cafeteria and maybe even on-site fitness facilities. Another morale and productivity booster without breaking the bank would be trying any of our fun, interactive group wellness challenges. You don’t have to spend 10’s of thousands of dollars on your wellness program to get results over time. Why not start investing more wisely today?
Overall, this is a really thought-proving article. Be sure to go read the whole thing today at the above link.