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Home » HERO » Optum, HERO Lead Backlash Against Employee Health Code of Conduct

Optum, HERO Lead Backlash Against Employee Health Code of Conduct

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Quizzify knows. Click to learn more.

First, the good news. The Employee Health Code of Conduct is a huge hit. Employee Benefit News just did a comprehensive piece on it.  It includes the whole “back story” of how it came to be, a reaction to the greed, lies, and harms by so-called industry leaders.  Definitely worth a read.

Rosie Ward’s original posting is garnering tons of “likes.”  And WELCOA is all-in, so much so that Quizzify is actually going to pay for a listing on their site.

And those of you who know Quizzify know that paying for things is not part of our worldview.  (In this paragraph, I am speaking for Quizzify. Normally I don’t, on TSW.)  Our “marketing” consists of the being the only vendor allowed to carry the Harvard Medical School shield, one of the only vendors to get validation from the Validation Institute, and so far, the only vendor to incorporate the Employee Health Code of Conduct directly into our contracts.  While the first two required some heavy lifting, it’s not exactly a stretch to do the last. We are even a bit embarrassed about how easily we not just meet but rather far exceed the requirements of the Code.

If you view the names on the 110 “likes” on the original posting (hold your cursor over the number itself, in case you were wondering)– you’ll see lots of familiar ones, the thought leaders you’d expect, like Bob Merberg. You’ll see names of the many people who are committed to the goal of healthier workplaces. You’ll see the names of small start-ups trying to do wellness for employees instead of to them.

You’ll also see some big names, leading the way towards the next generation of wellness. For instance, the #1 and most respected screening company, BioIQ. Among brokers and consultants, Arthur J. Gallagher appears three times. If there is ever a Code of Conduct Hall of Fame, AJG would go first, even if the inductees were not listed alphabetically.

Then there is the backlash.

HERO and Optum in particular have expressed their displeasure.  A good rule of thumb with HERO is that no matter what positive goal I try to accomplish, they will try to undermine it, not by confronting me (since a debate creates a news cycle, and they lose both) but by rather amateurishly trying to destroy my reputation.  As far as I can tell, in terms of business strategy, the only difference between HERO and Snidely Whiplash is that the former has never attempted to tie anyone to the railroad tracks, not that I want to put ideas in their head.

Optum told me quite directly they are going to refuse to acknowledge the Code’s existence. Optum, you may recall, is Seth Serxner’s outfit. Seth Serxner can always be counted on to do the wrong thing. After he admitted that wellness hadn’t reduced wellness-sensitive medical events, he famously admitted that Optum overscreens employees, before invoking the Nuremberg Defense: “The employers make us do it.”  (This is on videotape, and I am working to get the tape released. Needless to say, it’s taking a while because not everyone wants it released.)   Subsequently, no one at Optum could actually find an employer to agree with Seth’s statement.

He and the rest of the Koop Award committee — Ron Goetzel and his cronies — are also spearheading an industrywide backlash, trying to keep the Code from becoming widely adopted, simply by suppressing it. No positive words or “likes” from any of that crowd.  Not harming employees and not lying is just too much of a stretch for them, I guess.  It’s a Catch-22. if they adopt it, they’d have to rescind Wellsteps’ Koop Award for doing exactly the opposite.

In a way, nothing personal against Bob Merberg, AJG, BioIQ etc., but being dissed by this cabal is the greatest endorsement we could hope for.


  1. Dell Dorn says:

    Thank you, keep these columns coming.


  2. mprager says:

    Al, IMO, it is just laughable when you say an independent third party just did a “comprehensive piece” about something you endorse, when one goes to the third party and finds that it published your own opinion piece.

    I know you know the distinction between an independent inquiry, and choosing to include a voice of opinion, clearly marked, among many offerings.

    Perhaps there’s a minor gain for the topic — hey, they didn’t reject your piece! — but as a journalist of 30 years, I can tell you that publishing someone’s opinion is not an endorsement of that opinion.

    This isn’t the first time I’ve seen you do this, and — again, IMO — it erodes your credibility. You’ve got some, with me, but nobody has enough that they can twiddle theirs.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      Point well taken! Sometimes I have overstated the subject header in order to encourage a click-through. So I do one thing that erodes my credibility. We do need to balance that against the (unrebutted) proof that the Ron Goetzel’s Koop Committee cabal has zero credibility, knowingly giving out awards to their friends that are not only undeserved, but in fact demonstrate that at least in the case of Wellsteps, actually harmed employees.

      Nonetheless, I will try to up my game a bit here as you suggest.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      By the way sometimes news media that publish opinion pieces do fact-check. The Wall Street Journal editors definitely fact-checked my assertions that the Nebraska program and Interactive Health figures were impossible before they published this.


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