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Announcing the 2020 Vendor of the Year Awards

In the past, we’ve lovingly bestowed Deplorables Awards upon wellness vendors whose multicolinear combination of dishonesty, incompetence, ignorance, and friendship with Ron Goetzel have also earned themselves Koop Awards and in at least two cases, a trip to bankruptcy court.

Fortunately, the “pry, poke and prod” industry is asymptotically approaching irrelevance. It’s not just that many companies’ employees are remote and therefore difficult to screen, or that the EEOC is about to put the kibosh on financial inducements to screen.

It’s that screenings have now been proven not to save money. I don’t mean workplace screenings are not proven to save money. I mean they are proven to actually lose money thoroughly enough to disprove the maxim that it’s impossible to prove a negative. 

Consequently, the “pry, poke and prod” companies now operate mostly in the shadows, their market being limited to employers who lack internet connectivity.  The downside of their reticence is that we don’t have any vendors to laugh at anymore. Last year we turned that lemon into lemonade by naming the individuals who had contributed the most to employee health services through 2019, winners of the “Not the Deplorables Awards.

Continuing in that vein but switching from people to companies, this year we are recognizing the vendors who have contributed the most to employee health services. To qualify, a vendor must:

  1. Not have been, uh, “profiled” in They Said What? That rules out most companies;
  2. Be validated by the Validation Institute;
  3. Have seen selected or will be selected as a “Valid Vendor of the Month” By Quizzify, which means their performance is partially guaranteed by Quizzify in joint accounts.

Here is the list. We’ll put it in alphabetical order.  

Ault Medical Management

They take utilization review and case management to a Quantum-like level, for companies not big enough for Quantum. Here is our write-up of them and the webinar. Reviewing their figures very carefully showed us that in fact they do reduce utilization qutie noticeably. 


In lieu of a major PBM, giving your employees who fill prescriptions a Drexi card is a cash-on-cash no-brainer. Notice anything missing from my family’s claims summary?  Yes, that’s right. Claims.


In case you can’t read that, it says a grand total of — get ready — $44.30 was spent by our family on healthcare in 2020. Actually we spent a little out-of-pocket on drugs, but a Drexi card means no PBM and hence no reporting. I was never even asked who my insurer was.

The Drexi all-in price was lower than the co-pays alone would have been had we involved the PBM. Fewer middlepeople mouths to feed means lower prices. Oh, that $44.30 was an antibiotic I needed in a hurry and was nowhere near a store contracted with Drexi. It would probably have been $4.75 if I had taken the time to find one. (Note: you do need to give your prescription-using employees a Drexi card, but the annual cost of those can be recouped in one fill, for many drugs.)


They are the leaders in the unfortunately altogether-too-necessary category of reviewing provider bills to uncover, challenge and recoup insanely and often hilariously inappropriate charges, like $139,741 for an outpatient procedure to remove a few unslightly veins.

They are so certain to find savings that they usually don’t even charge. They merely take a share, so you can’t lose.

Leapfrog Group

OK, so they are technically not a vendor but they did accomplish a milestone this month: reaching their 20th birthday without a hint of scandal and no potshots other than by hospitals with low scores. (Those potshots actually increase their street cred, just like potshots from wellness perps improve mine.)  In 2021, they will be adding a financial component to their ratings:  measuring a hospital’s use of surprise bills settled by judicial decree. 


Never has a journal article showing savings been as thoroughly reesearched, as carefully vetted, as comprehensive, as valid, or as contrary to my expectations as theirs. It generated a lot of interest. I myself was skeptical enough of their findings to make them jump through a bunch of plausibiltiy hoops on behalf of the Validation Institute, to ensure the continuation of VI’s 7-year streak of zero challenges to their validations.

The Bottom Line: their program actually saves money…and the Validation Institute will now guarantee that.


So we’re already up to Q. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit this is my favorite letter.

Quizzify has revealed enough ways to save money through education that it’s almost impossible not to sign up for employee health literacy. After all, is there any other expense line item where employees receive an unlimited budget with no training in how to spend it? We didn’t think so.

Among the things we’ve taught this year, uniquely in all cases, are:

Further, while those insights make Quzzify the industry’s leading content tool, Quizzify offers the ultimate engagement tool: twice as engaging as your other benefits or your money back.

Sera Prognostics

Remember those old Wendy’s ads where someone would be asked whether they wanted a fresh and juicy Wendy’s hamburger or a dry patty on a stale bun…and they’d always pick the latter?

Well, likewise, the vast majority of employers cover prematurity tests that are 17% accurate instead of educating pregnant employees on why they might prefer a test that’s 88% accurate.

And yet, that’s exactly what they would get with Sera.

Validation Institute

In 7 years, they’ve never being successfully challenged on a validation, so one could call them the anti-HERO.  And, finally, after enjoying those seven years of zero challenges, they’ve announced a rock-solid Credibility Guarantee as a bet that they never will be called out on a validation. Assuming they add the VI-recommended clause to their contract, any customer of any validated vendor that feels the validation was in error can collect up to $25,000 from the VI, in addition to whatever guarantees the vendor offers. So in the case of Quizzify, you get their guarantee and ours.

Honorable Mention: Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO)

Yes, that HERO. Without them as a soft target, we wouldn’t have a website, now that Interactive Health is defunct. While it has been a blast quoting them verbatim, they’ve finally come to the realization that none of their claims of savings from “pry, poke and prod” programs overlap with reality, and they’ve finally stopped defending them. 

On the one hand, their stupidity was pretty astounding. On the other hand, you had to admire their commitment to stupidity.

So obviously they aren’t validated and never will be. We haven’t done a webinar with them and never will. And we don’t guarantee their allegations and never will. They are getting this Honorable Mention for having gone 12 months without saying anything preternaturally stupid or dishonest, at least in public.

They are the lucky beneficiaries of the immortal words of the great philosopher philosopher George W. Bush: “The soft bigotry of low expectations.”

Answer Leapfrog’s 20th Birthday Trivia Question to win $100

Dear They Said What Nation,

To celebrate Leapfrog’s 20th Birthday Week, Leah Binder posted 3 questions in our chat on Linkedin. One of the 3 remains unanswered…and I am personally upping the ante to $100 for the first correct answer!

So have at it.  Here is a hint: this person was an overnight sensation before become the person with the most things un-named for him. The full question is in the interview.

Once again, Hppy 20th Birthday to Leapfrog!

Dear They Said What Nation,

Happy 20th Anniversary to The Leapfrog Group.  In 20 years they have become arguably the most untainted healthcare not-for-profit in DC.  It’s not easy to stay untainted for 20 years, but they have. By contrast, providers, PBMs and vendors “sponsor” other groups, and — get ready — the other groups advance their agendas instead of consumers and employers. Simply doesn’t happen with Leapfrog.

Even though it’s their birthday, you’re the ones getting the presents. Yes,  members of TSW Nation can actually win prizes. Not for blowing the whistle on dishonest wellness vendors (though that too), but rather by answering a couple of general interest trivia questions right. If someone does the Mary Wells thing and guesses ahead of you, you can still at least be entered in a runner-up drawing

As of this writing, there are no correct answers yet…though everyone has heard of the two people and you’ll kick yourself for not guessing right.

Once again, here is the link. No time to waste, as the deadline is 4 PM today.

The Greatest Danger for Your Employees? Hospitals

Employers obsess with reducing the 1-in-800 chance that an employee gets a heart attack…while usually ignoring the 1-in-25 chance that they leave the hospital with an infection.  As a further irony, employers can actually do something about the odds of the latter…but overlook the opportunity. As an even further irony, some of what gets done for “wellness” ends up putting employees in harm’s way in these very same hospitals–more stents, more emergency room visits if hypertension is “discovered” etc.

The Leapfrog Safety Scores are out now.  We’d encourage everyone to take a looksee and ask two questions:

(1) Are the hospitals my employees are most likely to use on the “C” or “F” lists?

(2) Are my state’s hospitals safe?  Don’t just assume that because you live in a “good” state, that hospitals are safe.

Finally, see how much your company is paying for unsafe hospitals by using Leapfrog’s GE-Intel validated Hidden Surcharge Calculator.  You might think you are getting a “deal” on a hospital, but poor quality will overwhelm any cost savings.

We are often asked what employers should focus on if, as most experts now agree, wellness loses money and damages morale. Here’s your answer: keeping your employees safe.

Or in the immortal words of the great philosopher Peter Falk in The In-Laws: “The CIA has a terrific benefits plan.  Staying alive.  That’s the key to the CIA benefits plan.”


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