They Said What?

Home » Uncategorized » Part 3 of the Proof Wellness Doesn’t Work.

Part 3 of the Proof Wellness Doesn’t Work.

Do you know whether heartburn pills are safe for long-term use?

This posting should be read in conjunction with Part 2 of the proof that wellness doesn’t work, which in turn links to Part 1 that shows mathematically wellness can’t work.

During the Great Debate, Ron Goetzel’s side admitted that wellness admissions haven’t fallen, but added:  “Yes, wellness admissions haven’t fallen. However, without workplace wellness, wellness-sensitive medical admissions (WSMEs) would have risen.  We kept WSMEs from rising.”

We explained how this wasn’t the case, and promised that we would post the analysis, so that he wouldn’t have to take our word for it. So here it is.

Since $11.3-billion was spent on these admissions in the private-pay population according to the wellness industry’s own HERO Report, these events would have had to rise by at least 60% in order to make the claim that the $7-billion wellness vendor industry broke even by avoiding them.  If indeed workplace wellness prevented this huge increase in the privately insured population, one would expect that these very same events would have risen by something similar to 60% in the non-privately insured population–meaning the combined Medicare, Medicaid, and uninsured.

As researchers might say, the privately insured population was “exposed” and the remaining US population was “non-exposed.”  As wellness spending snowballed, the separation between those two populations’ WSME trendlines should have increased significantly.

Instead, we find these populations WSME-as-percent-of-total-admissions also flat-lined, just like the private-pay population.  Ironically, to the extent there is a difference, the population without access to workplace wellness trended slightly more favorably in WSME admission rates than the population with access to workplace wellness.

The graph below compares WSMEs — or what the HERO Guidebook refers to as Potentially Preventable Hospitalizations (PPH) — over this century, using the national Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project database.


Likewise, the idea that wellness events have indeed fallen on an absolute basis in the employed population due to wellness is also a fallacy. These events have fallen even faster in the population not privately insured.



  1. Samiam says:

    I wasn’t at the debate but I hear you gave Serxner a major spanking when he fell into your trap of bringing up this fallacy. And that he said Optum always tells its accounts to do less wellness to be aligned with USPSTF? Seriously, he said that?


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      That’s why we call this website “They Said What?” Yes, he actually said that instead of trying to maximize sales, they try to get their accounts to spend less money on them, in order not to harm their employees by overscreening them. I’ve checked with a couple of Optum accounts, who found this comment rather hilarious.


  2. […] and residential treatment options. While it has been proven that wellness programs have had no impact nationally on admissions for diabetes and heart attacks, apparently the same can’t be said for anorexia […]


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