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That Was the Year that Was: Our Top Contributions of 2015

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Our year-end jubilee has so far featured lists of the worst vendors and the funniest vendors.  To close out the year on a more serious note — if for no other reason than to show we are indeed capable of treating the extremely serious topic of wellness with the Extreme Seriosity it deserves — we’ll list the most influential posts of the year.

In terms of views, the top spot is shared by our two smackdowns of worthless employee weight control programs. Our peer-reviewed smackdown, in the American Journal of Managed Care, should end the year at #1 on their list too, of the most-viewed articles.  I say “should” because a lot will depend on people clicking through on it today or tomorrow (hint) and at least pretending to be enthralled by it, even though it is a bit dry.

The Reader’s Digest version got picked up on Huffpost.  Absent the constraints of peer review, we took the gloves off.  Our reward is that we are the most-widely read Huffpost of the year on wellness.

If “most shocking” is the criterion, the winner is our recent evisceration of Aetna’s employee DNA collection program.  This one is best viewed here, at Insurance Thought Leadership, but was also picked up by The Health Care Blog.  You know the old Woody Allen joke about the two ladies in the Catskills?  One of them says: “You know the food here is terrible.” The other replies: “Yeah, and the portions are so small.”

Collecting employee DNA is a shockingly stupid idea on many levels — the kind of program that someone would make up in order to make wellness look bad, but we didn’t have to. As if that weren’t enough, Aetna also decided to fabricate outcomes. And because the program was so expensive, to show a 2-to-1 ROI they had to concoct $1464/person in savings in the first year alone–on employees who, by Aetna’s own admission, weren’t even sick.   One of the editorial board members of the journal that published it wrote that it should never have passed peer review.

The biggest category — and the one where it would be hardest to pick a winner from among the many worthy entries — would be: “Most likely to show Ron Goetzel making things up.”

You might vote for yesterday’s post on how Ron said wellness programs increased stock price valuations when in reality they reduce stock prices.  (Ron also misused the word “valuation”.  It is not a synonym for “stock price.”  In all fairness, the only people who would be expected to know the distinction would be people who write articles about stock valuations that are actually intelligent and insightful.)  However, he probably didn’t make up that conclusion.  I reviewed 5 years and compared each company to its relevant sector index.  By contrast, he reviewed a longer period and has probably never heard of a sector index. We reached opposite conclusions about the correlation of wellness programs and stock prices. The real answer, though, is that wellness programs have absolutely no meaningful effect on either stock prices or stock valuations. If they did, one securities analyst somewhere, writing a report on one company anywhere, would have noted it. Not to mention that a hedge fund would have made a business out of buying shares in companies with the best wellness programs.

Another candidate would be our expose of the HERO report, in which we observed that HERO and their cronies accidentally admitteda la Robert Durst — that wellness loses money.  Despite co-signing this document — a document that required “two years and countless hours” of collaboration, and in which the word “consensus” appears 39 times, Ron insisted during our debate that he had nothing to do with anything in this document that he himself didn’t write.  (Of course, in the debate he also insisted that he had nothing to do with Penn State — meaning he just wandered into their press conference by mistake, or maybe I am confusing him with another Ron Z. Goetzel.)

Nonetheless our vote goes to the Unified Theory of the C. Everett Koop Award, in which we reverse-engineered the mathematically impossible formula (the “Goetzel Factor”) that Ron and his integrity-challenged cronies use to anoint award winners, whose programs are almost invariably hilarious and show a complete lack of understanding of the way healthcare and healthcare math work. To paraphrase the immortal words of the great philosopher Samuel Goldwyn, “If Dr. Koop were still alive, he’d be rolling in his grave.”







  1. Samiam says:

    Valuation is kind of the opposite of stock price. Valuation is what a company should be worth, based on earnings or a combination of metrics. It’s common to say: “Our valuation model shows that at this price the stock is under (or over) valued.” I don’t know how Ron can be writing articles on stock valuations if he doesn’t know the meaning of the word.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:
        Yes. You’d think given the number of rookie mistakes these guys make in the simple measurement of wellness outcomes, that they would be a bit more cautious before venturing into a field they don’t even pretend to know anything about. I’ve always maintained that a better strategy for these people would be that before they publish something, to have it reviewed by a smart person.


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