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Punitive Wellness Incentives and a Tough Lesson for CVS

Posted Mar 29 2013 12:00am
For those of us in the corporate wellness world , it goes without saying that wellness only works if people participate. But believe it or not, the idea of incentivizing wellness programs was relatively new just a few years ago. Companies might offer a cash incentive to complete a health assessment , or hand out gift cards for participating in a biometric screening , but few went beyond that.

Let me tell you -- times have changed.

More and more of our clients are asking about outcomes-based incentive programs -- tying incentives not just to participation but to actual results. Other companies tell employees that if they don't participate in certain ways, they'll have to pay up

CVS learned a tough lesson this week . When news broke that their wellness program will require employees to share certain health information or pay a $50 monthly penalty, the reaction in the media was swift. The move was seen as a corporate power-grab; a giveaway to "Big Pharma"; Big Brother run amok. At least so far, CVS is (unfortunately) losing the public-relations battle.

We're working on a white paper that discusses outcomes-based incentives, so stay tuned. In the meantime, let me offer a little off-the-cuff advice to HR professionals and benefits brokers. Rather than focus on penalties, earn employees' trust and participation the old fashioned way:
  • Get upper-management support and make sure they're vocal about the purpose of the program. 
  • Be crystal clear about how participants' data will be used and who will have access to it. 
  • Ask the population what they want. Survey them! And be sure you're working with a wellness vendor that designs unique, tailor-made wellness programming. (I know of one! )
What do you think about the CVS program? Is the criticism misguided, or do the naysayers have a point? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
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