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.