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2020 World Health Care Congress to Feature Wellness Debate!

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

It looks like the Mother of All Wellness Debates will be held March 29th in Washington, DC, at the World Health Care Congress.

This is a particularly timely issue because the EEOC is, even as we speak, drafting proposed rules defining “voluntary” to replace the 1984-type rules (where “voluntary” means “forced”) tossed out by a federal court in December 2018. There is a tension between protecting employee civil rights (as EEOC is tasked with doing) and allowing employers to fine employees (or move to high-deductible plans and then “incentivize” them to earn back their deductible) who don’t lose weight or otherwise toe the line. Or even to participate in these so-called “pry, poke and prod” programs, whose clinical value is dubious and often provide misinformation or violate clinical guidelines.

As noted in the link, key EEOC administrators have indicated they will be paying close attention to this debate. Further, the interest level extends to Capitol Hill.  Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin (arguably the most influential non-senior Democrat on the Hill) and Republican Senator Lamar Alexander (who runs the Senate committee that oversees health and labor issues), have already commented for the record on this debate.

Someone needs to show up to represent the “pro” side, though — or else the debate will be a rather one-sided affair. So far the invitation to debate has not been accepted — by the exact people who spend their entire lives looking for forums to spread their pro-pry,poke,and prod message.

Let me encourage them to show up by striking a conciliatory tone.

In the past, perhaps this column has not been respectful of my potential adversaries in this debate — the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) and/or Ron Goetzel.  However, I have great regard for them  — when they tell the truth. For instance, Ron Goetzel endorsed Quizzify as being “a lot of fun and very clever,” (minute 42:57 of our last debate).  And when he acknowledged I am the best peer-reviewer in the industry (minute 30:38). Or when he acknowledged that it requires 2-3 years to reduce risk by 1-2%.

I am also very very upset with The Incidental Economist (they are the New York Times’ economics bloggers). They referred to Ron’s analysis as — please excuse the technical jargon — “crap.” How dare they!

I also give HERO tremendous credit for admitting that “pry, poke and prod” programs harm employee morale and can damage corporate reputations (like Penn State).  But most importantly, for admitting that wellness loses money. It’s a rare trade association honest enough to admit their product –and once again, pardon the technical jargon used in the lobbying industry — sucks. It took real candor and courage to do that, and it is much appreciated. I have great respect for integrity.

I will reciprocate by acknowledging the benefits of “pry, poke and prod.” Screening according to established clinical guidelines, though it won’t save money, is a good idea for long-term employee health — assuming someone is able to interpret the findings correctly and assuming the findings are accurate, and assuming they aren’t already getting too many checkups.

I look forward to matching wits with them next month.

You can see the full World Health Care Congress agenda here, and register here.


  1. William McPeck says:

    Especially given the eyes and ears that will be paying attention to this mother of all debates, the use of a debate format here is unfortunate. The very nature of a debate suggests a pro – con format (winners and losers). If wellness/wellbeing does work (and I believe it does), how much better for all would it be if today’s worksite wellness leaders rather than debate the pro – cons, focused instead on building a collective consensus around what does work and what has been proven to not work for each of the potential value propositions offered by a wellness/wellbeing initiative. Different value propositions require different solutions. Seems to me that this would be so much better for employers, employees and the worksite wellness practitioner community. Granted, to do this will require more investment on the part of the players than a one off debate. I believe our obligation to employers and employees requires so much more than simply proving who is the better debater.


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      Bill, this is actually a very, very specific and timely issue: the EEOC is about to make rules covering “pry, poke and prod.” So they will be in attendance, I think, and will be very interested in this specific topic. In general, though, your point is very well-taken. Just not for this particular forum.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. drjonrobison says:

    My money’s on you will be debating The Invisible Man. Perhaps you should directly invite Jim from Bravo he’s always up for a good argument.


  3. H.A.W. says:

    The link you reference: “Timeliness is key here, as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is currently writing new rules on penalties and incentives. EEOC commissioners and staff have been alerted to this debate, and will be tracking the outcome.”

    Are you suggesting that the NOPRM first promised by the EEOC for 2019, and then in the Fall pushed out January 2020, is now on hold?


    • whynobodybelievesthenumbers says:

      I don’t know that it is officially on hold. I don’t actually think that it is. But they missed their own self-imposed timetable, again. This is no knock against them. They have other priorities too. But it does speak to the timeliness.


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