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Wall Street Journal: RIP to “Biggest Loser” Programs?

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

Two separate reports confirm that employers have finally connected their computers to the internet.

First, the Wall Street Journal just reported that employers are cutting back on wellness programs.  This especially includes the very same crash-dieting contests that we just invalidated in Employee Benefit News on Thursday.  Those Virgin Pulse/HealthyWage abominations should be right up there with the Pontiac Aztek, New Coke, DDT, hair-in-a-can, and hands-free toilet paper on Time’s list of 50 inventions that never should have been invented.  Here is an excerpt:

As employers begin to analyze return-on-investment and participation data, they “may be taking a step back,” said Evren Esen, director of survey programs at SHRM, the world’s largest society for human-resources professionals.

Employers “may be taking a step back”?   As an understatement, that ranks with Lyndon Johnson’s 1965 comment that “killing, rioting, and looting are contrary to the best traditions of this country.” (And you thought we only dissed GOP politicians like Donald “Boom Boom” Trump.  Quite the contrary. We are equal opportunity jerks.)

Second, after years of steady and hefty increases in employee incentives/penalties, the average non-participation forfeiture for wellness programs fell in 2015, from $693 to $651, according to the National Business Group on Health.  So now it is only about ten times the total that employers spend on wellness-sensitive medical events (about $60 PEPY).

This decline was reported three months ago. It took a while for me to post it because it took a while for me to dig it up.  Whereas previous NBGH annual surveys — showing the aforementioned massive increases — received a great deal of coverage in the media, NBGH buried the results of this year’s study, due to the decline in incentives. Publicizing facts is contrary to the best traditions of the wellness ignorati, of which NBGH is a founding member.

The bad news in the NBGH report is that even as average incentives declined, median incentives continue to rise. The good news is that NBGH actually understands the difference between the two words “average” and “median.”  Quite an impressive feat, by their standards. It could be that they’ve finally taken my advice and hired a smart person.

If employers and consulting firms start taking that same advice, it could be the end of “pry, poke and prod,”…and a great shot in the arm for Quizzify.

Actually, just to clarify, we are quite supportive of screening according to actual clinical guidelines.  Within the next month or two, Quizzify will be executing several partnership agreements with vendors to offer screening according to guidelines…and to use Quizzify for employees who are not due for screenings. If you are a vendor and would like to offer a similar program or an employer and would like to buy one, just reach out to us with an email to

We promise that a smart person will follow up.




  1. Mitch Collins says:

    Hands free toilet paper?


  2. Joe Sacco says:

    Donald Boom-Boom Trump?


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      Yeah–he said if one of the Pulse patrons had been armed, he “would have gone “boom, boom, and that would have been a beautiful, beautiful thing, folks.” I thought the nickname “boom-boom” suited him.


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