Things Worth Reading: Epidemics and Safeway’s Wellness Incentives

From ABC Australia comes Australia’s disordered eating epidemic:

[W]e are not in the midst of an obesity epidemic, as it is often claimed. We are in the midst of an epidemic of disordered eating. The solutions prescribed to combat obesity are often the same behaviours we as practitioners are diagnosing in those suffering from eating disorders.

The comments are a mix of good and bad, but don’t read them if you don’t feel up to the crazies.

Meowser kicked in a terrific debunking of the new “epidemic” of childhood type 2 diabetes.

Back in the US, Misleading claims about Safeway wellness incentives blows a few holes in the claims of Safeway CEO Steven Burd that the company’s wellness incentives (reducing insurance premiums for those below a certain BMI, blood pressure measurement, and/or cholesterol measurement) enabled them to keep health costs constant for four years.

A review of Safeway documents and interviews with company officials show the company did not keep health-care costs flat for four years. Those costs did drop in 2006, by 12.5 percent. That was when the company overhauled its benefits, according to Safeway Senior Vice President Ken Shachmut.

The decline had nothing to do with tying employees’ premiums to test results. That element of Safeway’s benefits plan was not implemented until 2009, Shachmut said. […]  Today, costs are slightly higher than in 2005, Shachmut said.

So they cut benefits in 2006, had benefits increase through 2009, and they’re claiming it’s due to the wellness incentives introduced in 2009?   There’s more, a lot more – for example, costs increased more than average during 2009 – you know, the year the incentives were rolled out – and the incentives plan is only available to the 28,000 nonunion office employees, which is a small part of Safeway’s 200,000 workers.

Of course, as Slate noted in The Fat Premium in October,

The fact that significant weight loss is nearly impossible to maintain poses yet another problem for outcome-based wellness plans. It’s a safe bet that any obese person who manages to score the Safeway discount in a given year will be back in the penalty a few years later. That means plan members are incentivized to enter a cycle of yo-yo dieting, which may actually increase their risks of cardiovascular disease (although not all researchers agree on the dangers of weight cycling).

Personally, I think Safeway’s been identifying too much with Catbert.

7 thoughts on “Things Worth Reading: Epidemics and Safeway’s Wellness Incentives

  1. Most wellness incentive programs in corporate America seem to be in non-union sectors, because I seriously don’t see unions agreeing to have their members face job loss or demotion because they can’t get their BMI under 25 or their blood sugar under 100. Of course, that doesn’t stop individual states from trying to push these programs on their state workers.

    It also doesn’t surprise me that the fight for US healthcare reform includes wellness incentives as well, even though one of the major points of the first plan was not supposed to discriminate against those who can’t get traditional insurance due to pre-existing conditions or just being fat.

    • Okay, I realize this has NOTHING to do with the topic at hand, but your beagle looks EXACTLY like our dog, Daisy. It’s freaking me out! Aren’t they the cutest dogs ever?

  2. The narrative is completely different.

    “Pre-existing condition” means an innocent victim who has a medical condition, completely outside his or her control.

    Fairness and decency require that such a person be offered medical insurance without any differentiation on account of that condition.

    “Obesity” means a lazy, self-indulgent fattie who could be thin, easily, simply by not eating a dozen donuts a day. Simply eating sensibly and keeping indulgences to a few a day! And this constant unhealthy behavior means that this fattie is costing everyone money.

    Fairness and decency require that such a person be charged more for medical insurance. (If they don’t like it, they can always lose weight – see above about “simply eating sensibly”, etc.)

    “Health care reform” was never not going to discriminate against fat people. Not for a moment. No more than corporate wellness programs, and for much the same reasons.

  3. Oh man I freaking love the ABS right now.

    A thousand times yes about the disordered eating epidemic. It frightens me how many people I know subscribe to a good food/bad food dichotomy. It’s super creepy.

  4. Is it just me, or are these “wellness incentives” in effect doing the exact opposite of what they hope to accomplish? Namely…a vast majority of workplace situations are stressful enough. Especially with corporate employers; that’s just a given. But wouldn’t the stress involved with trying to meet these standards, in addition to your superiors’ other expectations, end up raising your blood pressure amongst other things? Crap like this makes me hate the private sector more than I already do.

  5. Pingback: January Monthly Roundup « Living ~400lbs

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