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Health Fitness Corp Meets Seinfeld: Saves Money by Doing Nothing
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:
- They won a Koop award in 2011 for saving massive amounts of money on a program (Eastman Chemical) that by their own admission didn’t exist.
- They won another Koop award for saving the lives of 514 Nebraska state employee cancer victims. Except that it turned out these employees didn’t have cancer.
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?)
News flash: The Wellness Ignorati are ignoring facts for a change
The Wellness Ignorati got their name by ignoring facts. Facts, of course, are the wellness industry’s worst nightmare. They ignore them In order to avoid creating news cycles that might reach human resources departments despite the best efforts of their consultants and vendors to shield them from actual information.
And they’re at it again.
First, Atul Gawande wrote a scathing article in the New Yorker about massive overscreening earlier this month. As Mitch Collins noted in The Health Care Blog, not a peep in response from the perpetrators of those hyperdiagnostic jihads. Nor has their been any response to Mitch’s article itself. Literally, no one defends wellness industry practices. And yet somehow all the laws are on their side.
Speaking of which, Mitch mentioned the famous Nebraska debacle, in which the vendor, Health Fitness Corporation, lied about making “life-saving catches” of “early-stage cancers.” Since HFC was a sponsor of Ron Goetzel’s Koop Award, Ron naturally gave them that prize for these lies.
However, we’ve thrown down the gauntlet. HFC, come on out and fight. Give us your side of the story. How was this not a deliberate lie designed to score political points in Nebraska? If it was a mistake, why didn’t you change it and apologize? How do those 514 cancer non-victims feel? And Mr. Goetzel, why do you not only keep defending HFC, but have even upped the ante? They’ve been promoted from “best practice” to “exemplar” in your most recent webinar.
Speaking of non-responses from Mr. Goetzel, where is the correction of or explanation for the massive mistake in Mr. Goetzel’s most recent wellness program evaluation? All those readers have been misled by his blog into thinking Graco’s costs/employee are $2280/year when in reality the cost per employee contract holder — according to Mr. Goetzel’s own blog — is about $11,100, like almost every other company. (That includes spouses and dependents but any reasonable dependent ratio would yield more like a typical $5000 to $6000 per employee rather than $2280.) I know he knows about this mistake because I’ve submitted a comment to his blog, which shockingly hasn’t been posted.
So, please, could someone actually respond for a change, even if it’s just to accuse us of bullying.