They Said What?

Wellness: A Primer

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Q: How can I become a wellness vendor?

A: Uniquely in all of healthcare, you don’t need a certification, specialized training, a GED, or even a valid driver’s license — as long as you have $67,000. Then after 5 days of training (half what the Four Seasons gives housekeepers), you too can buy a white coat, poke employees with needles, and lie about your outcomes.

Q: Do wellness vendors lie much more than other people?

A: It depends on how you define “lie.” If you define “lie” as “speak falsely,” then yes. If you define “lie” as “be in a prone or supine position,” then no.

Q: How can you tell a wellness vendor is lying about saving money?

A: You know the old joke about the way you can tell a lawyer is lying is that his lips move? Well, the way you can tell a wellness is lying about saving money is that they say they are saving money. Indeed, in wellness, lying is the new black.

Q: Would the Wellness Ignorati disagree with you?

A: The Wellness Ignorati recently agreed that wellness loses money. This needless to say was a major gaffe, but every time they try to walk it back, they stumble.

Q: Whoa, cowboys! Who or what is the “Wellness Ignorati”?

A: The Wellness Ignorati are a core group of people who would need new jobs if everyone who purchases wellness services visited this site. The Ignorati get their name because their strategy is to ignore facts and make sure their followers don’t get exposed to them. It is a term of great respect because they do an amazing job pretending facts don’t exist. Even so, since we don’t want to insult them, we have offered to let them pick a different moniker that describes the strategy of fact-ignoring/suppression. The leaders of the Ignorati are Ron Goetzel, HERO, and Larry Chapman.

Q: But at least wellness vendors help employees get healthier, right?

A: ROTFL! See what the “best” vendor of 2016, Wellsteps, did to the poor employees of the Boise School District. And make sure to click through on the links.

Q: Can you direct us to the other side of the story?

A: We have only been attacked four times. Once was by Shape-Up. However, it turned out they were lying about their own outcomes. Once was in a webinar by Ron Goetzel and Steve Aldana (of Wellsteps). They didn’t actually rebut our math, but compared us to “climate change deniers” and “tobacco executives testifying before Congress.” As you can see, we were really upset about it (not). We’d also invite you to take a look at Wellsteps, to get a sense of the ethics of people who attack us.

Most recently, HERO circulated a “poison pen” letter to members of the media urging them not to publish our material, and accusing us of reading their Official Outcomes Guidelines publication more thoughtfully than they had intended it to be read. Our attorney ferreted a copy of this letter out of them. Needless to say we are proud to post it and urge readers to savor every word.

Our attorney observed he had never had a client who wanted to publish the letter defaming him. But he doesn’t get the way the wellness industry works: being defamed by the HERO cabal (led by Staywell’s Paul Terry, and of course including Ron Goetzel) is like being on Nixon’s Enemies List.

Q: That’s only three times.

A: Good catch. You’re smarter than a wellness vendor (except “that’s only three times” isn’t technically a question). The third time was when Michael O’Donnell’s promotional trade journal accused us of “bullying.” Curiously, he didn’t challenge any of our findings, preferring instead to whine about our direct style. It’s worth noting we adopted this direct style only after we were blacklisted for publishing a very respectful, award-winning category bestseller pointing out none of the Wellness Ignoratis’ numbers added up. Perhaps because he’s not familiar with Harvard and Johns Hopkins, or doesn’t read the Wall Street Journal or Forbes, he accused us of lacking “credentials.”

Q: Is this accusation ironic?

Funny you should ask. It’s ironic because his magazine’s analysis of wellness savings was done by a graduate student at the University of Tasmania. This analysis accidentally showed that wellness loses money when measured validly.

Q: I think you know what our next question is.

A: Yes. It’s an island south of Australia, best known for its carnivorous marsupials.


Q: Are there other good guys, or is this one of those everyone’s-against-us things?

A: Plenty of good guys. Cracking Health Costs, The Doctor Weighs In, and Not Running a Hospital are all great blogs that don’t suffer (wellness) fools lightly, Salveo Partners has a great blog and book, and the Intel Validation Institute is the ultimate arbiter of outcomes, truly the Gold Standard for good guys. The Incidental Economist (NY Times blog) is all over this, as is Harvard Business Review. There are also plenty of “In the News” media items too. (The media is 100% aligned with us.)

Q: Where should we start on this site?

A: This Is Your Brain on Wellness, showing that the drafters of the wellness provision of the Affordable Care Act knew laughter was the best medicine. WELCOA, for instance, misspelled the name of its founder—unless it really was founded by the inventor of the self-serve restaurant, Warren Buffet. WELCOA, by the way, is a perfect example of an organization that has turned around 180 degrees and now is well known for integrity and competence. So it can be done.

Q: What about the Golden Squirrel Awards?

A: They are a step up, halfway between the hilarity of the Lighter Side and the dishonesty of The Smoking Guns. Worth a view just to see the statuette.

Q: And the Smoking Guns?

A: We’re not calling them liars, but let’s just say this: We don’t know you but if you told us the sky was green and they told us the sky was blue, we’d at least go look out the window. Each Smoking Gun vendor or consulting firm was asked questions that they refused to answer, despite our offer of a $1000 honorarium ($2000 for Ron Goetzel, who has declined twice). We recommend asking them the same questions yourselves, before selecting them as your vendor or consultants.

Q: And the blog?

A: You’ll probably feel some sympathy for the Wellness Ignorati as you watch them self-immolate, but you won’t feel anything but anger towards the vendors that actually profit by harming employees with screens known to be inappropriate, like Star Wellness, Total Wellness, HealthFair, Interactive Health, and SSM Healthcare. Or Bravo, which brags about fining non-compliant employees to “save money.” And to truly get into the Belly of the Beast, visit the Provant saga.

Q: I’d like to turn some of these scoundrels into the authorities. Who are the authorities?

A: Haha, good one. Wellness is to healthcare what no-doc is to mortgages. This segment attracts people who thrive in environments without rules or grownup supervision.

Q: You guys are very amusing. Are you available for weddings and bar mitzvahs?

A: Yes. Also consulting, speaking events, and especially litigation support. You should sue your vendor before your employees sue you.


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