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Health Fitness Corp Meets Seinfeld: Saves Money by Doing Nothing

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

Employers are very fortunate that so many wellness vendors cover so many market niches, to satisfy an employer’s every need. Want to harm your employees?  Wellsteps has you covered.  If insurance fraud is your thing, there’s Healthfairs USA.  Suppose you really have it in for the US Preventive Services Task Force, maybe because you have a repressed childhood memory of being bitten by one of its members. As the leader in flouting USPSTF guidelines, Total Wellness can bite them back.

And, if you prefer a vendor that does nothing, Health Fitness Corporation (HFC) fits the bill:

Yes, when it comes to invalidating their results for doing nothing, HFC is truly a target-rich environment. HFC’s latest? They “saved” $586 per employee on a weight-loss program.

By now you’ve probably guessed that — by their own admission — in this successful weight loss program, these employees didn’t lose weight.

As befits a company that previously didn’t actually run a program but still saved money, and that didn’t actually treat cancer victims who didn’t have cancer but still claimed to save their lives — these employees actually gained 4 ounces.  According to HFC, though, they would have gained 13 ounces had it not been for HFC’s Herculean efforts.

The amount employees did not gain? 9 ounces.  Saving $586/employee for not gaining 9 ounces works out to $1041/pound of of savings for employee weight not gained. Extrapolating from that result, employees would have to not gain only about five or six pounds to completely wipe out healthcare spending.

This is where the magic happens…

To what does HFC attribute this incredible performance? I’ll let them put it in their own words. And these are definitely their own words. Trust me when I say no one is going to accuse them of plagiarizing these words:

More than half (58.5%) of participants that self-enrolled in the program never completed a coaching session, compared by 18.6% in the group enrolled by a health coach completing no coaching sessions.

English, of course, is one of the five things wellness vendors know the least about. (The other four are arithmetic, data, facts — and, of course, wellness.)  So let me translate that into English for you: the majority of self-enrolled “participants” didn’t actually participate.  To summarize, most self-enrolled employees didn’t actually participate in a program in which most participants didn’t actually lose weight.

Well, hey, at least they didn’t violate USPSTF guidelines, commit insurance fraud or harm these employees. That’s something, right?  And therein lies HFC’s market niche, a positioning inspired by the immortal words of the great philosopher George Costanza: “Everyone else is doing something. We’ll do nothing.”

Wrapping up some old business…

A couple of Saturdays ago, I raised some money for folks with MS — like our colleague, Jon Robison — by climbing to the top of the Hancock Building, the tallest building in New England.  This year I clocked in at 13:56, putting me in the top quartile and shaving almost 3 minutes off last year’s 17:15. You may have noticed that 13:56 is more than 3 minutes faster than 17:15, not “almost” 3 minutes faster. Before you attempt to claim your $1000 for spotting my first-ever material error, there was one fewer floor this year, which reduced average times by about 23 seconds.

Age-wise, I kicked some serious thigh.

13:56 earned me the runner-up spot in the 60-and-over cohort, among people from Massachusetts. (A small number of committed souls travel around the country doing these things. Two of them beat me as well.)  Second is huge for me — the closest I’ve ever come to winning any contest that didn’t involve knowing massive amounts of useless trivia. Helps that stair-climbing doesn’t require coordination, speed or athletic ability of any kind. Just, as luck would have it, wellness.

Speaking of “closest,” congratulations to Bill McPeck, who came the closest to guessing my time, at 16:45.

And special thanks to Barry Zajac, Fred Seelig and Mitch Collins, who along with an anonymous donor, helped me approach my fundraising goal. (Anyone care to put me over the top?)


  1. Samiam says:

    An instant classic.


  2. Allen Frommelt says:

    Always good to see Barry mentioned. He was my mentor in the the industry and sent me to CORA training within two weeks of my start date.


  3. Janet Bates says:

    Thanks Al for helping me start my day with a good laugh! Like so many in the “employee improvement/engagement” business…this organization is using the industry-classic MSU methodology to report results: Make Stuff Up


  4. Buck Thrust says:

    I awoke as if in a dream turned to real life. Or maybe I was still dreaming…. after hours of Orson Welles’-directed ‘The Trial’ rewritten for a new, raw era (“when did you realize you had been born with INFERIOR GENES? was it before or after you read about 66.666667% of cancer being cloaked as an ACCIDENT? when we knew it was your sodden, sloppy, decadent non-wellness lifestyle in cellular coverup all along!!1!”) i knew i had to prove myself. My college years (mid-70s) in the “most racist city on earth” ibid. prepared me for what was to come…not for the faint of heart

    I licked the suction cups that covered my amazingly well-preserved appendages (thanks Aunt May, for the polydactyly!!), soaking them with my viscous fat drippings (eat it, Ron G. and Seth S.) and scampered up them exterior windows in broad daylight to BEAT YOUR TIME making PYTHAGORAS PROUD LAMF.

    Sadly, although dozens of millennials spontaneously jumped up agilely from their stand-ups, wrenching their earbuds from their tender pinnae to cheer me home, none of them thought to post it to youtube so you’d think it never happened. Jeez.


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