maternity leave and hurt feelings, penalizing employees who won’t participate in wellness programs, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Penalizing employees who don’t participate in wellness programs

My company plans to penalize employees who do not take care of themselves by denying them the privilege of purchasing low-cost insurance. I understand the need to control costs and that the cost of insurance is significant, but my employer is asking employees to do things that, while in the employee’s best interest, are fairly intrusive (tracking your weight, coaching if you have an addiction, taking a lifestyle questionnaire, getting regular checkups along with all other sex or age appropriate tests).

Of course this is the employer’s right, but I’m wondering if this is a trend that is likely to become commonplace. In five years, can everyone expect to have their employers this involved in what, up until recently, were very private issues?

Probably. Your employer is likely presenting it as a “discount” for employees who do participate in various “wellness” programs, rather than as a penalty for those who don’t, but yeah, it’s a growing trend as employers look for ways to control their health care costs. Of course, you might have the option of dropping your employer’s plan (and thus their subsidy, and thus their privacy invasions) and instead buying your own coverage from the insurance exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act.

2. I was hurt when the person I’m covering for maternity leave attended our Christmas lunch

I’m filling a maternity leave role with the agreement in place that I will be hired full-time. Over the holiday season, our unit had a Christmas lunch and when we showed up at the venue, the person I’m replacing (who is still on her maternity leave) was there waiting to join us for lunch. I think it’s quite nice of my employer to include her, but I felt a little taken aback as I was not expecting her to be there. I have never worked at a company where they invited people who were on leave for any reason to events like this. Maybe that’s because this is the first office that I’ve worked in where within a month of starting I haven’t felt “accepted” within my unit’s circle. I’ve had very positive feedback from my manager on my work performance, but I feel very lonely at work. Perhaps this is why it felt insensitive to me, as I don’t feel accepted, yet any time “Betty” shows up it’s a big deal.

Again, I think it was nice but I can’t help feel this was a little insensitive towards me. I would be interested to read your reply.

It’s not unusual to invite former employees or employees who are on leave to office social events; it’s actually a really nice gesture! I’m sure that no one meant it to make you uncomfortable; after all, she isn’t your competition or someone who got you fired or anything like that. People might have even thought you’d enjoy the opportunity to talk.

I think the bigger issue is that you’re feeling lonely at work — but I wouldn’t take offense at their invitation to someone who’s still officially part of their team or see it as a reflection on you in any way.

3. Late pay for independent contractors

My husband recently accepted an independent contractor position. He only works for this company, as there is plenty of work to keep him busy. We live in Illinois, but the company is based in Iowa.

When he started, they told him the pay week ended Saturday night at midnight and started again on Sunday, with the cutting of checks on Monday. So, as long as all completed orders were submitted by Saturday night they would make that week’s pay. My husband has never missed that deadline. He was also told that printed checks would be mailed on Monday (with the exception of holidays) and most often be in our mailboxes on Wednesdays. This has only happened once in the last 2-1/2 months. Over Christmas and New Year’s, we anticipated a delay and didn’t speak up. However, on Monday he was told that checks weren’t printed for mail on Tuesday because the office gal was out. Assuming she would bust her behind Tuesday to print and mail checks, we didn’t get too excited. However, it is now Friday and the mailman has come and gone, leaving no check. My husband called the office gal and she indicated that his may have been forgotten and not mailed with the others (who we have now confirmed with have received their checks) and it should be there tomorrow, she hopes.

If he was told that his check would be cut on a certain day every week, does he have any actions he can take against the company, considering he is independent?

Not unless he has a contract that requires payment within a certain time frame and establishes penalties for late payment.

Employees have a lot more protections than independent contractors, including state-level laws that require that paychecks be issued by certain dates. For independent contractors, it’s just governed by whatever it says in their contract (which may or may not even be in existence).

4. Cover letter when applying for a job for the second time

I’m a relatively new grad, having finished my graduate degree about a year ago. Around that time, I made my first application to a job in my field. The interview went well, the managers were enthusiastic about the possibility of me joining the team… but ultimately an internal applicant got the job.

I bought your book (it’s great!) and maintained a connection with one of the managers. Lo and behold, the job was posted again! I followed your advice in the book about reaching out to my contact to see if they had suggestions as to how I could make my application stronger. My contact has given me lots of valuable info going forward, but I can’t find anything on your website or your book about writing a new cover letter in this instance. Should I mention my previous application? How do I make this cover letter seem fresh?

Yes, mention that you applied previously and that you continue to be strongly interested. I’d say something like, “I applied and interviewed for this position last February, and I’d love to be considered for it again. Our conversations last year only solidified my interest in the role, because…”

5. How long does it take for questions to be answered here?

I’ve always wondered how long it takes you to answer a question on your blog. It seems like some of the questions people submit a highly time-sensitive. Do you answer those questions right away? Just wondering.

It varies wildly. Sometimes a letter might get answered the next day, sometimes it’s more than a month later … and sometimes it’s never, unfortunately, because I’m answering 6-7 questions a day here but receiving 40+ daily. I used to try to ensure that everyone got an answer, even if it was just a few private lines, but that stopped being possible at some point, and I’ve had to make peace with that. Anyway, I do keep a backlog of questions that I’m excited to answer at some point; some of them are embarrassingly old, unfortunately.

But there’s an auto-reply that goes to everyone explaining that I can’t answer everyone, so hopefully people know not to wait on a response if something is time-sensitive.

{ 503 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.

    RE: #1

    It’s a bit more complicated than “an employer has a right to your bodily fluids to keep costs down”. Per the ADA, these examinations must be voluntary, and the EEOC has sued three times over this and similar issues – Employers are not allowed to discriminate based on health status after all. What complicates things is that the PPACA allows for wellness incentives of up to 30% off the cost of healthcare (50% if it deals with smoking cessation).

    Another complicating factor is that according to a researcher cited in the link in my response, “there’s no good research that shows these programs actually improve health outcomes or lower employer costs”. I have a feeling employers will be allowed to monitor and require testing, but basing pricing on health outcomes will become a huge no-no.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, it’s voluntary — but when it’s tied to getting significantly lower costs, there’s a real disincentive not to participate. It’s one more reason I’d like to see employers removed from the health care set-up altogether.

      1. V.V.

        Imagine the freedom we would experience if benefits weren’t tied to jobs! I do everyday! There would be less incentive to stay at a crappy job, so jobs would have to be less crappy!

        Which is why I doubt I will see it in my lifetime. I have to admit I have walked away from jobs that sucked because my husband already had insurance and I didn’t need the benefits. Had I been in the position of others who depended on them, I would definitely been more compelled to stay.

          1. Matt

            Yes, crappy jobs exist everywhere. Imagine that the only reason you worked at a crappy job, or worked for a crappy company, was because you needed the health insurance. That’s the reality for many in the US. I agree with Alison – healthcare should not be tied to employers/employment.

            1. Apollo Warbucks

              I agree too, healthcare shouldn’t be linked to employment.

              I love the NHS healthcare fee at the point of delivery is something I am incredibly greatfull for. Sickness isn’t a luxury or slef indulgence.

            2. Matt (another)

              In my country (Europe) there is stately health insurance and every employer is required to enlist his employees in the program, refraining from this would be highly illegal. For the jobless who register with the unemployment agency, they’ll cover for basic health insurance. Hasn’t Obama received beatings a few years ago for suggesting something like that in the US?

              1. Elizabeth West

                Yes; the GOP screams bloody murder about it because “universal healthcare is socialist!” In reality, everything here now is all about money and how they want to keep all of it.

              2. Ann without an e

                Back in the day, before WWII, people payed for their own health insurance. Then we got involved in the war, all the men got drafted, most women had limited work experience if any and only in pink collar fields. What few men were left, because they were unhealthy or too old started bid wars. So some men were off fighting and dying while others got to stay home and get rich, supply and demand. So Roosevelt and congress felt this was unfair….they passed a law that capped salary. To attract talent companies started offering to pay health insurance to get around the salary cap. Before that people payed out of pocket for most things and insurance was used to cover big ticket items, cancer, surgery, hospital stays ect. And now you know how employers got involved in the first place…….

            3. Lizzy May

              I’m so grateful to live in Canada where healthcare isn’t tied to work. Our system isn’t perfect (I can’t imagine any healthcare system would be) but I’ve never felt tied to a job because of my health.

              1. HR Generalist

                I’m Canadian as well, but I’ve definitely felt tied to a job for the health care benefits. Maybe they’re more ‘luxuries’ than essentials, but I wouldn’t be able to afford dental care without my job. I also would likely not be on a prescription, and I’ve heard friends (we’re all new grads, mid-20’s) say that they won’t go to a doctor to get an illness checked because they can’t afford the medication.
                I’d agree we’re a lot better off than the USA but I feel like I need my glasses and dental work as much as I need annual physicals and emergency care.

                1. Colette

                  One of the major differences is that most dental/vision care is non-urgent – so if you change jobs and have to wait a few months for benefits, you aren’t at risk in the way you would be if you were without basic health benefits.

                2. KarenT

                  Another Canadian here, and I also disagree with Lizzy. It’s not as extreme as in the US, but many Canadians healthcare is tied to their employer. And it’s not just vision/dental, but also prescriptions. If you have a chronic medical condition, your employer given health care plan can be critical. I have an HIV positive friend, and his medications are $1000/month. He can’t leave his job (at least without a strong indication of how his new employer covers prescriptions/how secure his new job would be).

                3. Joline

                  It doesn’t cover everything, but just a reminder to people in Canada to check if your province has some sort of PharmaCare or prescription drug assistance program (BC does, I think many of the other ones do as well) that you might be able to get some benefit from. The BC one at least even if you make significant income you receive benefits once you’ve passed a deductible that is based on said income.

                4. Al Lo

                  I think one of the big differences is that non-employer insurance plans are much more affordable in Canada, though. My husband and I freelance and don’t have work coverage, but we pay about $150/month for our insurance, which is an affordable (and tax deductible) output. It’s not the highest level of coverage, but also definitely not the lowest. We could get more basic vision/dental/prescription coverage for as little as $70-ish/month (for 2 of us) if we really wanted to.

              2. sally

                Tell that to the Canadians that come to the US for healthcare that is delayed or refused because its deemed unnecessary.

                1. Carrington Barr

                  … annnnnd it was only a matter of time before the apologists showed up.

                  Really, that took longer than I expected.

                2. Kelly L.

                  Most people I know who actually live in Canada (or the UK, etc.) are pretty happy about their health care. This tends to be a strawman brought up by other people in the US.

                3. Colette

                  @sally
                  I live about an hour from the border and, as I said, I don’t know anyone who has ever done this.

                  It may seem frequent because you don’t see the millions of Canadians who have no need to cross the border for medical care.

                4. Dr. Speakeasy

                  Chalk me up as another one who doesn’t know anyone in Canada who would rather have US health coverage and I’m married to one and we have a large network of Canadian friends and families. I know that there are people who do go to the US and pay out of pocket for some services but I think that’s just a further argument that the US system works best for those who can afford the full cost of procedures.

                5. Colette

                  @MT That’s quite the interesting spin on the situation. Some of it is true, but it’s certainly manipulated. For the record, 42,000 = 0.1%.

                6. MT

                  .1% is a small number, but still a large population. If you factor in how many candians live near a border with the means to pay out of pocket, I would bet that percentage of that population is much bigger.

                7. MT

                  .1% of the total Canadian population. What percentage of the total population need more than just a medical checkup?

                8. Colette

                  @MT Who says those 42,000 paid out of pocket? The Canadian health care system will sometimes pay to send patients to the US when that is the best route for them to get care.

                9. Canuck

                  @MT

                  Actually, the US spends more tax dollars per capita on healthcare than Canada does – despite NOT COVERING their entire population. That is, each American pays more in taxes than Canadians do for Medicaid and Medicare, which of course only covers children, the elderly, and the very poor.

                  Commenting on tax dollars paid only hurts your argument. The US spends more as a percentage of GDP on healthcare than almost every other country in the world. This is not to say that the Canadian or UK systems are perfect, but you may want to pick your arguments a little more carefully. One thing our system does not do well is wait times for non-urgent procedures. But this is a trade-off I will take for having immediate access for urgent and emergency care.

                  BTW, the “healthcare system” in Canada does not decide whether a treatment is suitable or not. Your DOCTOR does, and they make the decision. If they prescribe a treatment or procedure, it gets done. Unlike the US system where medically necessary treatment can actually be denied by your health insurance provider.

                  Sources: plenty, here are some:

                  Health expenditure per capita, WHO data:
                  http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.country.country-USA?lang=en

                  Health expenditure per capita, World Bank data:
                  http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.PCAP

                  Health expenditure as % of GDP:
                  http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SH.XPD.TOTL.ZS

                10. Tau

                  I’m actually facing those extremely frustrating wait times in the UK right now… I’ve been waiting since early October and what with needing another scan done and a follow-up appointment to discuss my options and so on and so forth I’m gloomily expecting it to be 2016 by the time I actually get the treatment. I *also* ended up severely anemic from complications of the health issue in question so have another reason to be annoyed at how long this is taking.

                  I still would not trade the NHS for the US system.

              3. Tara

                My dad has lost his job and had to yank an abcessed tooth out with a pair of pliers a few months ago. Canadian.

            4. De Minimis

              In the US we get what some call “job lock.” People can’t take the chance to improve their situation, go back to school, etc., because they have to stay at their current job for healthcare.

              I had no coverage for a long period, because I wanted to go back to school and change careers. Thankfully, nothing happened over the years I went without coverage, but it very well could have.

              1. maggie

                I will be one of those next year! Going back to school and have an autoimmune disease with a million prescriptions. I hope and pray that I can keep up FT grad school coursework while working FT so I can keep my job and benefits. With my autoimmune disease. (kill me now.)

          2. Boo

            True but when I read about things like this, I am really grateful that healthcare isn’t something I have to take into account when I job hunt. Sure there are still crappy jobs here, but having to take healthcare into account really limits your options. Like job hunting isn’t difficult enough as it is…

          3. V.V.

            For the record by the way, I was being *completely* facetious and hoping I came off as a little silly with my comment above, sorry that wasn’t clear. You pretty much sum it up Warbucks.

            There seems to be an idea that employers would have to treat people better and pay them what they are worth if they didn’t have an often needed (sometimes direly) benefits package to gaffe and net people with.

            As you point out though, there are still crappy jobs in places where this isn’t the case, and it ticks me off that some folks will mistreat others knowing full well the other party has to take it because there is too much at “steak.” (Couldn’t resist.)

            1. Natalie

              I have never heard anyone say non-employer-provided healthcare would eliminate bad jobs, just make it easier for people to change jobs, drop to part time, start their own business, etc.

              Satire works best when you stick close to a position someone has actually taken.

              1. Kelly L.

                This. It would keep people from having to stay in the crappy jobs just for the insurance. It wouldn’t necessarily stop the crappy jobs from being crappy. Plenty of crappy jobs continue and continue and continue despite lots of turnover.

                1. Snork Maiden

                  It would also encourage entrepreneurship and freelancing.

                  I live in Canada and dental, vision, physio aren’t included under universal health care. I have mild job lock – fortunately I don’t have preexisting conditions or a dental issue currently – but differing coverage among provinces discourages say, someone with asthma from moving. (You wouldn’t be covered by your employer as it’s a preexisting condition, and each province has their own list of drugs/treatments they will pay for.) I can’t imagine what I would do if my health care depended entirely on an employer plan.

              2. V.V.

                Natalie,
                I agree. I have just myself heard many people take this position. And this last comment was soley intended in reply to Apollo Warbucks waaaaaay above, many people just commented in the interim and it got pushed down.

          4. Elizabeth West

            True. But when you lose your crappy job in the US, you lose healthcare. Every time I change jobs, I have to change doctors, because around my area, we have two major providers and you’re tied to one or the other. You can’t go to Provider A if your company’s insurance is through Provider B without paying huge amounts of money for going out-of-network.

            I need to find a new doctor’s office anyway; the clinic I go to is a residency clinic and every two years, the doctors move on and I get someone new whether I want them or not. :P

        1. MT

          I don’t think it wouldn’t give much freedom. The employers would just add money to the salaries, and the individual would have to cover the full cost of their own insurance, either through a premium or taxes. The crappy jobs with the good benefits, will just turn into crappy jobs with good pay. People would still need to work those jobs just to pay either the taxes or their premium.

          1. Mike C.

            The employers would just add money to the salaries

            Uh, no, they would pay that money out to shareholders and executives. The fact that wages have stagnated over the past 40 years in comparison to GDP make this clear.

        2. E.R

          Yeah, in Canada there are still crappy jobs, with lots of crappy incentives to stay at them (like having income). However, I’ve never worried about literally dying or going bankrupt from medical costs because I’m not insured, whether I’m employed or not. I also don’t have to worry about this happening to my family, friends and neighbours, so it’s truly wonderful. However, crappy jobs still exist and lots of people feel compelled to stay in them.

          1. Cath in Canada

            Yes, when my mother-in-law had a stroke a few years ago and had to have emergency brain surgery, we were all sitting in the waiting room while the surgery took place and my sister-in-law said “well, at least we’re not sitting here trying to figure out how we’re going to pay for it, and whose house will have to be remortgaged”. I’m so thankful for not having to think about such things.

            My general experience of both the British and the Canadian systems is that they work better and faster the sicker you are and/or the more urgently you need help. Yes, there can be a long wait for something like an MRI, or an ACL repair surgery, but if you break a bone or have a stroke, you’ll be looked after instantly and well. My mother-in-law had several months of intensive in-patient rehab after her stroke that was all covered too, so it’s not just a quick fix and out. I have no complaints!

      2. Wanderer

        I agree. It’s one of the numerous reasons i will never work in the USA even tough i got good offers (and ridiculous ones).

      3. Anonymous1973

        I also feel that not having health insurance tied to an employer may allow some to start their own businesses. We’ve talked before on this site that starting your own business isn’t the Holy Grail to success, but I imagine that some people want to do it simply because that’s where their interests and skills lie.

        1. Mike C.

          I read an article in Inc. once that talked about how Scandinavian countries have much higher rates of new business development than the US precisely for this reason.

          1. Doy

            The Economist, that hotbed of left-leaning socialist thought, also pointed out the business advantages of a national health care plan.

            1. PlainJane

              Exactly. I’m surprised the pro-business lobby isn’t more supportive of national healthcare in the US. Yeah, I know – taxes! – but American businesses have to compete with companies in countries with national healthcare, i.e. companies who don’t have to spend a fortune on health insurance for their employees. Didn’t someone once describe GM as a health care company that makes cars? I’m probably butchering the quote, but you get the idea.

              1. Mike C.

                This is something I don’t quite understand either. Shouldn’t businesses want to get rid of that expense?

        2. Long time lurker

          I am Canadian. I started my own business 3 years ago, which was profitable in its first year and has just gotten more profitable every year since. I ABSOLUTELY had the freedom to leave my FT job and strike out on my own because of our universal health coverage. I consider it one of the essential factors behind my ability to do so.

          So now I have generated both economic activity and jobs that would not have existed if I hadn’t started my business. And I started my business because I knew I wouldn’t lose access to health care if I did.

      4. Anonsie

        What I want to know is, what if the wellness program would be likely to uncover health issues/a disability that the employee wanted to keep private? Especially for tracking someone’s weight, I can think of a lot of ways that could be prying into things it shouldn’t.

        Or, say, they have some health related limitations and if they told the truth on the questionnaire they’d be ineligible for the discounts because it would look like “unhealthy choices.”

    2. Not Myself

      My employer prices our health insurance a little differently in that there are tiers of pricing depending upon your salary (employees who earn more pay more). I was pretty much okay with that concept – despite have some pretty fundamental objections to some aspects of our federal income tax system, which is another story – until they decided to change the way incentives are handled as well.

      It used to be that disclosing the information earned you a contribution to your HSA (less money for the higher-paid tiers, but still something) but the latest round contains no more positive incentives at my tier and some pretty severely negative ones. They are also getting more intrusive – for example, it’s not enough to self-report smoking status, you now need a negative nicotine test (I didn’t even know such a thing existed).

      I also have objections to the pervasive use of BMIs in assessing individual health – these measurements were designed to assess the health of population groups, not individuals. A body builder is going to flunk (too heavy) without being at all unhealthy – so they built an appeal process into the system and seriously, you have to APPEAL to your employer to prove you’re healthy enough?

      I’m rapidly passing the eye-rolling stage on this issue and moving on to the where’s-a-petition-to-stop-this-stupidity stage.

      1. WorkingMom

        I also have objections to the pervasive use of BMIs in assessing individual health – these measurements were designed to assess the health of population groups, not individuals. A body builder is going to flunk (too heavy) without being at all unhealthy – so they built an appeal process into the system and seriously, you have to APPEAL to your employer to prove you’re healthy enough?

        This is very true. BMI is used to measure the ratio of height to weight for a population. It should not be used to measure an individual’s level of physical fitness. As long as it’s used correctly, it’s a great tool – but in no way is BMI the be-all, end-all measure of physical fitness. It is truly just a ratio of height to weight. Nothing more. I feel your pain, Not Myself!

    3. WorkingMom

      There are so many variables here. In general – the types of health actions OP referred to are not really intrusive, they are (and should be, from an employer perspective) regular, recommended healthy actions like an annual well care visit, age/sex appropriate exams, and programs like health coaching or other self-directed challenges to help employees improve their health.

      These types are programs will continue to grow. Now, a strong wellness program will provide either discounts on premiums or credits toward high deductibles, or dollars into an HSA/FSA account for completing certain health actions. Personally, I disagree with the “stick” approach (penalize for not doing it), and prefer the “carrot” approach (discounts for those who do participate). A good wellness program should also follow all HIPPA rules and regulations, where employers and benefit administrators have zero access to personal information and/or results. (Most employers do not want that information, of course.)

      There is a movement towards outcomes based incentives that is growing. A strong outcomes based incentive program should be tiered and offer participation incentive for all, and then offer additional incentives for those who fall into healthy ranges in a particular category – or who do not meet the healthy range but participate in a coaching program as an alternative.

      These types of programs are GOOD, for the employee and the employer, and should be administered by a third-party. Now, when to raise the red flags is when your company wants to do a wellness program but does not want to invest in it, so instead they make their own. The you have the office manager running a “biggest loser” style competition or something similar – which is a terrible, no good, bad idea for everyone.

        1. C Average

          Thanks for that. I have to admit I’m continually surprised by how strongly people feel about wellness programs, but have wondered if I’m missing something critical in the discussion.

          I’m not on my company’s health plan–I’m on my spouse’s because it’s both cheaper and better–but I do opt in to some of the wellness initiatives here, like onsite cholesterol screening, flu shots, etc. I’m also a member of the company gym, which offers a very in-depth annual fitness assessment I actually enjoy taking. I find that for a person of generally good health, it’s really handy to have some basic wellness options in place onsite. It more or less replaces an annual physical, which I know I’m supposed to get but (let’s be real) almost never do.

          I’ve never found it to be pushy or intrusive. It’s there if you want it, conveniently and affordably.

          1. Anna

            I think part of the disagreement is that they are becoming more intrusive and they haven’t really shown an improvement in outcomes. My old company used to have the incentives and I participated because I wanted the discount, but aside from the flu shot and cholesterol screening (which I could have done on my own) the programs didn’t really show a change in my behaviors for having participated. If all they want is education, that’s one thing. But if they don’t care, it’s a whole lot of effort and work for not a whole lot.

            1. Hlyssande

              Yes, exactly this!

              My company pushed the wellness program pretty hard for a few years, complete with questionnaires and health screenings and not a lot of education, but has thankfully backed off. There are still some events that people can participate in that are pretty fun and our office complex offers various exercise classes, but the only thing they really push these days is free flu shots (and who objects to free flu shots?).

          2. Mabel

            My company requires that employees and covered dependents take and pass biometric screenings (that include BMI, which I agree is ridiculous). They want waist circumference, blood pressure, and I think cholesterol levels. This year, you didn’t have to do the screening if you took it and passed last year, which is why I don’t remember the particulars (thank goodness I don’t need to do it this year). If you opt out, you are charged $30 more per insured person (self + any dependents) per paycheck for your health insurance benefits, which is $30 x 26 pay periods = $780/year per person. I know I’m fortunate to be employed and have health insurance, but it really seems that the amount of money I end up paying for health care (my part of the premium, deductibles, co-payments, co-insurance, etc.) is getting higher and higher.

            1. Mabel

              Aaaand I didn’t really make my point in my last comment. When I was reading the comments about wellness programs, I was thinking, “We don’t really have wellness programs. We just have to take the biometric screening tests and hope we pass them.” They do have one program where you can talk to a nurse on the phone about certain goals (like losing weight or getting more exercise), but that’s about it.

      1. BRR

        The problem is when you incentivize it, it can reward or penalize depending how you look at it. If I offer $100 bucks off a month to anybody to does a wellness program, is it rewarding those who using it with $100 or penalizing those by paying $100 more by not using it. So while I completely agree that people should be rewarded for doing stuff like this, it then tends to automatically penalize anybody who doesn’t want to participate.

        1. WorkingMom

          I disagree, but I see how you are looking at it. If all employees start off paying $100/paycheck for benefits. (Let’s assume everyone has the exact same plan.) Then, as the employer I offer my employees a $20 discount if they choose to participate in a voluntary wellness screening. The key here is voluntary. If Sally feels so strongly that she does not want to participate – she can choose to, and continue to pay the same $100 fee she has been paying. No more, no less. She continues as on as usual. If Bob wants the discount, he can choose to participate.

          Sally could say that she has been penalized for not participating, but she really hasn’t. She has chosen not to participate, and therefore continue to pay the same rate she has been paying. (Personally, I strongly disagree with the reverse programs – participate or get a surcharge or price increase.)

          Using the same logic, I could choose to participate in my company’s bowling league. At the end of the league all the participants get free pizza. If I applied the same logic I could complain that I was not offered free pizza, even though I didn’t choose to join the league. If I want the free pizza, I should join the bowling league.

          1. CAA

            And tomorrow you hire Susie who has never paid you anything for health insurance before. To her your plan pricing is $80 with a $20 penalty for those who refuse to give you their blood.

            My DH’s former employer really had the stupidest wellness program. In order to choose Kaiser as your insurance provider instead of Blue Cross, the employee and spouse had to participate in the blood test, nicotine test, weight measurement, blood pressure, survey — all administered by an independent 3rd party. Then you go to your doctor at Kaiser where this exact same testing is part of the normal health management program and do it all again. It was a total waste of money on the employer’s part to use this testing as a gateway. They’re just paying twice for the same thing.

            1. WorkingMom

              “Then you go to your doctor at Kaiser where this exact same testing is part of the normal health management program and do it all again.”

              That part is silly – the program should be designed to encourage AN annual exam – either through your PCP or through a wellness screening. Agreed, doing it twice is just twice the cost for the employer – once through the screening vendor and then again through the claim. Someone didn’t think that through.

              Regarding Susie the new employee – most employers will offer Susie the option to complete her screening or health activity within a reasonable time period so she can get the $20 discount if she wants to. If she doesn’t, her premium is the same $100 as everyone else. It’s still her choice. In fact, some (really great) employers will give Susie the discount for the remainder of her first year. Agreed though, that it’s semantics to a certain point. If you buy a shirt today for full price and tomorrow it goes on sale, you could argue to the store that you’ve been penalized for shopping the day before the sale.

          2. BRR

            Even in your scenario it’s kind of like asking if the glass is half full or half empty. Is it a $20 incentive to do the program or a $20 punishment to not do it? Somewhere else on here today said it’s just semantics.

      2. Erin

        I used to work for a large, top FTSE 100 company. They rolled out a new wellness program, and simply just filling out a questionnaire got a discount on insurance. I wasn’t even covered by that company’s insurance (my husband had a better plan) but my boss wanted everyone to fill it out so we could show 100% compliance. I was well into the last trimester of pregnancy at the time, so even though I had gained a reasonable amount of weight for that stage of pregnancy, my bmi was over the “normal” range. For the rest of my time at that company, I got weekly emails about healthy eating, weight loss tips, and how obesity kills. Despite me updating my weight in the system, choosing the unsubscribe me option at the bottom of the emails, and doing anything else to stop the emails, I continued to get them. I found those emails offensive and intrusive.

        1. EG

          Wow, that was completely insensitive of whoever set up the program. I’d have let the manager know that his compliance issues made a bigger mess of what should have been a simple no thank you to the request.

        2. Jen RO

          Intrusive I understand… but how were they offensive? They were simply coming from a system that was set up wrong…

          1. Tinker

            Well, the apparent fact that what caused the pattern was a technical issue doesn’t change the result — that a person was persistently receiving bulletins pertaining to a sensitive subject that they did not want and that were not appropriate to their circumstances. It’s like the Facebook year in review thing that happened recently — nobody intended to paste “Hey, look at this awesome highlight that defined your year, i.e. your child’s tragic death” all over folks’s timelines. And yet.

            As to why unsolicited and persistent diet advice is offensive, that’s kind of a… well, larger… question. Most condensed way of putting it I guess is that lots of people have issues around weight, both theirs and that of other people, that involve hanging a lot of extraneous value judgments and assumptions of similarity that don’t hold up well. Even as a person who is relatively unremarkable in terms of overall build, when I’m around my family there’s a continuous hum of commentary about my body and how it compares to that of other people — because their body image issues have a way of leaking. (If I did the same, I expect it would not go over AT ALL well.)

            I don’t much like this, and I’m a fairly weird human in several ways that mostly serve to insulate me from the diet-industrial complex. For folks who are more normal on those axes, and particularly for folks who cannot resort to pointing to a slate of unambiguously “correct” biological parameters, it can be really hurtful to appear to contribute to that “I’m going to keep on making implicitly negative judgments of your body over your objections” narrative.

            1. Erin

              Totally agree! Thank you!

              Partially it was my own personal issues, but pregnancy and the postpartum period was a difficult time for me (and a lot of other women) in terms of body issues. So getting weekly emails about weight loss felt like little jabs about my “unhealthy” body, even though intellectually I knew it was based on a mistake.

              There are also other larger issues that include the health at any size movement that I support, so many of the emails seemed rather retrograde in their messaging.

    4. Lisbonslady

      So Mike, Alison or anyone who knows.. my husband had to have a physical compete with blood tests when he got his new job in June. They offer no wellness programs to employees. His weight and cholesterol were fine but his blood sugar was a little over normal, by a couple of points, so we have to pay 2% more than the standard amount for our medical benefits. Is what you’re saying is this is illegal?

      1. Anna

        They based that on a ONE TIME test? That is a scam if I’ve ever heard one. And by scam I mean, what an absolute joke. You can’t actually do any sort of predictions on the likelihood of developing Type II diabetes based on a one time test.

      2. EG

        That is ridiculous. A one time test showing a couple of points over normal isn’t enough. Even medical professionals are changing what the idea of “normal” blood sugar levels are. Some people are different, but their levels are normal for them.

      3. WorkingMom

        Any outcomes-based program should have an alternative action option. Look into an appeals process, or any forms called “accommodation” or “alternative” form of any kind. There should be an “out” here – if he is identified as being at risk in a category, he should be able to complete an appeal or accommodation form that states he is under his physician’s care. (It’s OK if the physician’s care is the dr saying, “you’re fine, you don’t have high blood sugar.”) The screening is just that, it’s a screening tool, and not a diagnostic tool. Inquire for any kind of appeal or alternative, for an outcomes based program it’s required.

      4. Lisbonslady

        This was a one time test and now I am wondering when it’s time for re-enrollment if he’ll have to take the tests again. He’s always been under 100, so considered normal, and I know the result that day was like 104…

        He’s been told these tests are mandatory. He was given tests at the employer previous to this but everything was ok and I’m not sure that employer would have charged more if results had been less than perfect. I wasn’t sure if this was a new norm given how many changes we’ve seen with his benefits but it felt incredibly intrusive and unfair, we already pay a lot for a plan that beyond preventative, really has a high deductible so anything major will be a financial challenge regardless.

        Not sure what we can do at this point. I’ll have to check with our state labor board I guess. But now he’s working there and we have been paying more, to speak up now, wouldn’t that put him in a tough spot.

        1. WorkingMom

          Yeah, the part that is hard and can really stink is that when the company works with the third party vendor to setup up the program, the “desired” ranges for each category are set. When you fall one point over the desired range, it doesn’t mean you have a problem, you just got unlucky that you happened to be one point into the next bucket.

          If the program doesn’t have an appeals process or accommodation form (well, they should since it’s outcomes based), but they may also have an exception form. As in, it’s “against my religion to do a screening at work” (tongue in cheek here of course, but you get what I am saying), so a person can opt-out of the screening and show instead that he or she did their annual exam through their PCP instead. (And therefore just skip the whole do the screening, then appeal it every year thing.)

          Hope you get some answers!!

    5. neverjaunty

      This may also vary by your state. I would be surprised if California’s laws were as liberal on this issue as the feds’.

  2. V.V.

    I thought there was sort of a law with credit cards, that a surcharge for using one was illegal, but a discount for using cash was not.

    “Penalties” should be outlawed but there should definitely be incentives (cash maybe?) for participating in the wellness programs.

    I thought companies received some sort of tax break for providing insurance to their employees.

    1. Not So NewReader

      My state has started a service charge for using credit cards. It’s not a “surcharge” but rather a “service charge”. I get a kick out of how they can rename it and some how that makes it okay.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian

        Ha, that reminds me of when I worked at the state university, we weren’t allowed to use state funds to pay tips for food delivery, but it was okay if we scratched out the word “tip” and wrote in “service fee”.

    2. Helka

      It isn’t illegal, but it is a violation of the card acceptance contract for the major card issuers — severely enough so that they have occasionally required the card processors for repeat offenders to terminate those accounts.

      1. Corporate Attorney

        Cash discounts don’t violate card network regs. The Visa and MC regs are public and are clear on this point. What the card networks seek to control is differential surcharging by issuer or card brand.

        1. Helka

          Cash discounts don’t, but credit-card surcharges do. The V/MC regs, as enforced and applied, require that the displayed price be the price charged for credit card purchasers and that a discount be offered at the register for payment by other means.

          The card companies also seek to control differential surcharging or acceptance based on issuer, card brand, or card type. Part of the Dodd-Frank Act was to permit merchants to favor debit cards over credit cards and to encourage (but not require or prohibit) the use of certain cards over others, which was previously prohibited.

    3. Natalie

      *Nerd hat* it was never truly illegal to charge a surcharge to use a credit card, but most card companies included a provision in their service agreement forbidding it and forbidding offering discount for other payment methods. They also frequently forbade credit card minimums. Vendors that got caught could lose their processing equipment.

      The 2010 Dodd-Frank bill prohibits card networks from forbidding minimum purchase amounts up to $10 or penalizing vendors who offer cash/check/debit discounts. It is still probably a violation of the merchant’s card processing agreement to charge a fee, but not against any law. *Nerd hat off*

      1. Corporate Attorney

        It’s not typically a violation of acceptance agreements because it’s an issue addressed in the card network regs, which the networks have updated to permit discounting for cash purchasers.

    4. Colette

      “Penalties” should be outlawed but there should definitely be incentives (cash maybe?) for participating in the wellness programs.

      Why?

      What positive benefits are there to joining wellness programs to save/get money?

    5. Kyrielle

      1) Why, when they don’t work? (See study linked up-thread.)

      2) They are the exact same thing. If my company charges $300 a month for health insurance, but gives you $50 if you participate in the wellness program, that’s identical (assuming you do it so the $50 is taxed anyway) to charging $250 per month for health insurance, and penalizing those who don’t participate in the wellness program an additional $50 per month.

      It’s purely splitting hairs to argue that “incentives” are good and “penalties” are bad. The same result occurs: the employee who wants their privacy and doesn’t want to take part in the wellness program pays $50 more than the one who shrugs and takes part.

      1. V.V.

        Sure it is. I mentioned that it was my understanding that companies get something of a tax break for providing insurance, so I am less than sympathetic when they tell their employees that their rates will go up when they are doing their damndest to cut costs on both ends. But if the desired end result is for people to fill out a stupid questionnaire, $100.00 cash money in hand can seem a more tangible result, and more palatable to some people. Some people do want a lower premium and will jump through hoops to get it. Apparently our distaste over the whole affair truly makes no difference to the powers at large.

        Honestly I have died on this hill and others close to it, but it did not change anything. The company will just get someone else to do it.

        1. Joey

          Let me assure you companies hate wellness stuff too- it costs money. But the alternatives are worse.

  3. Bend & Snap

    #1 my employer does this and I opt for the higher rate because my health and lifestyle choices are none of my company’s goddamn business. Weight tracking, blood work and exercise requirements as a trade off for low costs? Hell no. So invasive.

    #2 perhaps examine why you feel threatened by the person you’re covering for. She still works there and it’s not a normal response to be upset that she was invited to a team activity.

    1. snikta

      I realize that it seems invasive, but your employer pays for your health and lifestyle choices, not you. It is very much their business how you spend their money.

      1. MK

        No, your employer does NOT pay for your health and lifestyle choises, they PAY for your work. It’s not their money, it’s yours, money that you have earned. Are you seriously saying that an employer is entitled to have a say on how their employees spend their salary?

              1. CA Admin

                Not really, actually. Different people react very differently to different kinds of contraception. I’ve tried a ton and only found *two* that work for me, one of which is rarely covered by insurance (or was before the ACA).

                For women who can’t handle hormones, that number is even fewer. You can do condoms (requires partner compliance, which isn’t guaranteed if you’re in a coercive situation and aren’t all that effective), an IUD (which is one of the forms Hobby Lobby objects to), or cervical caps/sponges (really ineffective).

                Healthcare is compensation, employers shouldn’t get to tell me what I can buy with my compensation. End of story.

                1. Cath in Canada

                  I haven’t been able to find a single oral contraception option that works for me in Canada – I had no problems at all in the UK, but every single formulation I’ve tried over here makes me incredibly nauseated and light-headed for some reason. Thank goodness for the IUD!

                2. CA Admin

                  @Cath in Canada

                  Right? The crazy part is that Hobby Lobby’s objections to the IUD are based on fundamentally flawed science. So not only do companies get to deny their workers healthcare that actually works for them, but they get to do it even though the supposed basis for their objections isn’t even accurate.

              2. Alternative

                No, it’s not enough. Because it’s not my employers business to decide which completely legal and safe contraceptives people may or may not use. It’s absolutely crazy that an employer thinks it knows better than me and my doctor what health decisions are right, ESPECIALLY when based on the completely FALSE premise that some things may cause abortions.

              3. Dolly

                No, it isn’t enough. Not when many women cannot use any of those 16 forms and the one they can use their company is opposed to for reasons that are not based on any form of science but rather dogma.

                But hey, I guess they are fine with the big “A” as long as it is forced upon women by the government of their largest vendors. The vendors they use to ensure higher profits. Then it is ok. But women choosing to use a type of birth control that in no way is related to abortion? Nope. Not ok.

        1. Natalie

          In the novel Middlesex, there is a scene (in the 1920s) where a new Ford plant worker gets a visit from some kind of home committee. He’s quizzed on how he brushes his teeth and his wife is instructed to stop using garlic in their food (the characters are Greek, so…)

          (Caveat, from what I know Ford was overly involved in his employees’ personal lives, but I don’t know if it included home inspections.)

          1. Former Diet Coke Addict

            It did. Ford had an entire department devoted to turning his employees American, and they would visit employees at home to ensure that they were married and the kids were in school, that they spoke English at home, and lived American lives as thoroughly as possible. He wasn’t the only one, either–big factory owners in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century loved those policies.

            1. Anonicorn

              That’s wild. Supposedly Charlemagne required French citizens to eat flaxseed because he believed it was insanely healthy.

        2. Joey

          Uh I hope you realize most employers with decent health bene’s pay somewhere around 60-80% of the premiums. And obviously those premiums rise with rising healthcare costs and high claims. So they are usually very invested in your health.

          1. Bend & Snap

            Uh I do realize that, but it doesn’t mean I have to offer up my information on a silver platter.

            1. Joey

              im not sure you understand. On top of your take home salary most companies also pay a large portion of your healthcare premiums. And if you’re causing their rates to rise from year to year doesn’t it make sense for them to see if they can incentivize you to arrest that trend.

          2. Xay

            They are invested in my health because that is part of the total compensation package to secure my services as an employee.

        3. sally

          The more the government is involved the worse it’ll be. Take healthcare away from private providers and it’ll be worse than a few nosey questions

              1. ?

                May I ask what you mean by this? Perhaps I misunderstand your intentions.

                I have generally stopped commenting on (and occasionally stopped reading) this site because it just isn’t worth having my words or the words of others, which were said in earnest, picked apart, or discounted because we only comment so often, or too much, or only on certain topics, or every topic, or didn’t articulate “correctly”.

                Try as I might I don’t get how someone commenting, or refraining from comment is such an affront to one’s personal sensibilities.

              2. Ask a Manager Post author

                I’ve noticed the nitpicking of word choice too, and I’m trying to intervene when I see it. It’s derailing from the discussion, and I think alienates a lot of people. I don’t always see those comments immediately though, so I’d really appreciate everyone’s help in (a) not nitpicking others’ wording choices and (b) not joining the chorus when it’s happening. Thank you!

          1. Anna

            Right. Because as we’ve seen with the years and years and years and years and years of private healthcare we’ve had, it’s so much better. How could you possibly know? The answer? You couldn’t.

          2. Zahra

            Actually, I live in a government-paid healthcare province and its involvement is pretty minimal. The doctors will measure and weigh you, but the vast majority of them won’t say anything unless there is a direct and immediate or near-future on your health.

        4. WorkingMom

          No, the common misconception about wellness programs tied to financial incentives is that your employer “wants to know” about your blood work, exercise habits, doctor visits, etc. Any wellness program worth it’s salt will strictly prohibit this. Employers do NOT want to know this information, period. What they do what – is productive employees. Of course they also want to contain growing health care costs, and minimize catastrophic claims. No one should deny that. However, employers also want healthy, happy employees. Healthy, happy employees are more productive. They miss less work, they are more energetic, and they work smarter. Encouraging annual or age-benchmark physical exams is not a way for your employer to find out your cholesterol, or to dig around and find out what you’re doing and how you care for yourself. It’s a strategic initiative – if Josephine never goes to the doctor, she has no idea where she stands with her health, except for how she feels. And let’s say she feels fine. Then, lets say that Josephine’s employer institutes annual biometric screenings, and if she participants she gets an extra $250 in her HSA. So she goes, and she finds out her blood pressure was extremely out of range. She is directed immediately to the doctor and addresses the issue. What would have happened to Josephine one, two, three years down the line if she never had her blood pressure checked?

          There are of course financial incentives for the employer and health plan to offer these programs – but it’s also the right thing to do.

          1. Bend & Snap

            Disagree. People are in charge of their own health and choices.

            I take care of myself without my employer babysitting me.

            1. BRR

              What about the employees who don’t take care of themselves? I have a coworker who smokes heavily and stated to a group of people how her doctor wants her to check her blood sugar twice a day but she isn’t going to do it. People who don’t care for themselves like that raise the cost of health insurance for other emloyees.

              1. Anna

                None of your business. Just like I’m not going to worry too much if you do risky things like bungee jumping or snow showing in areas that have a lot of avalanches, I expect you shouldn’t worry too much about me and the choices I make.

              2. MK

                Do they? Is your coworker actually sick? How certain is it that she will ever be sick? And what are the chances that you will both be working for the same employer if and when she does? The most you can say is that employees not living healthy lives potentially raise the costs and that’s a very flimsy excuse to invade someone’s privacy.

              3. Student

                What about car ownership? Car accidents are a leading cause of death and injury among working-age adults.

                What about gun use and ownership? There’s a lot of research that indicates it increases risk of injury. Should employers screen for deer hunters?

                What about pregnancy? It’s got very high medical costs and causes employees to take long leaves of absence. It’s a very common “condition”. Medical complications are relatively frequent. It even causes the employer to need to pay for insurance premiums on yet another dependent, without any additional productivity gain for the company! Employers screened out childbearing-age women for years because of it (some still do, even though it is illegal). Would you like to go back to that system?

                What about alcohol use? It’s associated with a host of medical problems too long to list, along with a bunch of undesirable work behaviors. Perhaps employers should be able to impose teetotalism on their employees?

                What about marriage? Should spouses just not be covered, because it raises the employer’s costs? Should you be subject to health screening by both your spouse’s job and your own? Maybe companies should offer a discount to their lifelong-bachelor employees. Maybe gay employees should be preferred in states where gay marriage is still illegal, because they will not be legally able to cover their significant other’s healthcare costs.

                That is what you’re advocating. The things people get injured by and die from are often things that are wildly popular or very common. The side effects are disasters for a progressive, inclusive, society. The invasions into your life and freedom will never end if you crack open the door.

            2. WorkingMom

              Absolutely, a person’s health choices and actions are their responsibility. Totally agree. This approach aligns with the new HDHP styles of benefits – your get your HSA and you manage your own healthcare – it’s all about prevention.

              Taking out the debate of whether or not healthcare should be linked to employment, if you are currently enrolled in your company’s health plan, your company’s health plan will pay your claims for major health issues. Of course they have a vested interest in encouraging employees to focus on prevention. If you have a screening or annual exam each year, you are less likely to suffer a catastrophic health incident. Employers are investing in their employees to contain their healthcare costs (no secret there), but also for the employee’s health, to be a productive and contributing employee. It’s like that saying, “What if I invest in my employees and they leave? What if you don’t and they stay?”

              However, this is also why all wellness programs are voluntary. So that in individual can choose whether or not to participate.

              1. neverjaunty

                As you say, it’s “no secret” that employers are trying to keep health care costs – particularly catastrophic costs – down. So it turns out that Josephine has inherited hypertension, or carries a gene that increases her risk for cancer. Why wouldn’t an employer want to know about that, so they could get rid of Josephine before she results in expensive health care costs? And even if we assume the employer isn’t so cold-hearted, remember that the insurance companies are happy to do it for them: hey, your workforce has a higher than average percentage of people at risk for stroke, so we’re going to raise your rates unless that number drops.

                Yes, voluntary (not “voluntary”) workplace health programs can be a great benefit. I don’t understand why you’re ignoring the legitimate concerns about the intrusiveness and abuse of those programs.

              2. Hlyssande

                HDHP + HSA plans are honestly terrifying to me. My workplace introduced them as an option for this fiscal year and I’m dreading the announcement that they’re going to force us all onto them in the future.

                If you’re not ridiculously healthy, it’s a bad idea. And even then, a relatively mild injury (broken bone, no surgery needed) can wipe out years of contributions.

                1. WorkingMom

                  Totally agree with you. I hate it. I’d rather have my old-fashioned PPO back. I particularly hate the “real life” examples shown OE seminars. “Sally has 3 kids and throughout the year puts $x into her HSA. Througout the year she has one prescription, one trip to urgent care, and a chiropractic visit, now she rolls over $1500 to next year!” Come on people – those minimal costs for three kids? Never gonna happen.

                2. neverjaunty

                  Eh, the good thing about HSAs is that they are pre-tax withdrawals. I hate the high deductible, but on the other hand my old PPO screwed me around so much on what was covered anyway, I’m not sure it makes a difference.

                3. Evan Þ

                  Not necessarily. I broke my collarbone last year (falling off my bike), and the cost was less than a single year’s contributions to my HSA. The bills did show a minor insurance discount off list price, though – does your workplace’s HSA make people pay the full list price just like a completely uninsured person?

                4. I'm a Little Teapot

                  HSAs are only advantageous for people with high tax liability (i.e. high income) and no chronic conditions. Basically, the healthy and wealthy people who need help least.

                  They also contribute to insurance “death spiral” situations – healthy people who don’t think they’ll face a lot of medical expenses end up buying catastrophic coverage plus an HSA, while people with chronic conditions buy comprehensive coverage, and comprehensive coverage becomes more and more expensive because only people with chronic conditions have it, driving up costs.

                  HSAs are so useless as anything other than a giveaway for affluent folks without chronic health conditions that I’m inclined to believe they were designed as exactly that – a tax shelter cunningly mass-marketed as healthcare “reform” by cynical politicians.

                  See the following article: http://virtualmentor.ama-assn.org/2005/07/oped2-0507.html

          2. Lore

            They make me extremely uncomfortable. I have opted out whenever given the option to do so and I still get “Congratulations, you got a physical exam!” emails from our wellness program, which they swear is a separate company from our insurers. I don’t want my health insurance/doctors reporting *any* information about my care and treatment to a third party. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Also, I have a long-documented history of “white coat” hypertension–my blood pressure measured at the doctor, especially if I’ve had to wait more than 15 minutes, is always higher than normal. My doctor has me monitoring it at home, where it’s completely normal. But if I’m getting results reported from tests, I’m going to come out as hypertensive and be forced onto a medication regime that I probably don’t need. How is that beneficial (or saving money) for anyone?

            1. WorkingMom

              Lore – that’s a great point. A good program wouldn’t force you into a medication program, a good program would tell you that you should follow up with your PCP to discuss your “high blood pressure.” Then, when you get that message, you know what the situation as, as you’re already monitoring with your PCP at home, and you’re fine.

              Any program that auto-enrolls participants is a disease management program of any kind should have an easy opt-out feature, for situations like these, where you may come up as “at risk” but you’re already on it.

              Reverse applies too – if a person is on blood pressure meds already, they are under a doctor’s care. But if they still have high BP, maybe the meds aren’t working, or there is something else to look into. In this opposite example, the wellness program should respond the same way – refer participant to his/her PCP for follow up. Then the participant can discuss with his/her PCP to determine if there is an issue or not.

              1. Lore

                But one of the commenters below specifically notes that her program requires either a particular BP level or medication.

                1. WorkingMom

                  Lore, I’m not exactly sure how a program/company would execute that – I mean, it’s a bad approach, of course. What should happen – is direct the participant to PCP, and maybe auto-enroll in disease management, if the employer has purchased a DM vendor. DM then reaches out to the person with high BP and determines if the individual is under current care, taking medication, whatever they are doing. The participant is determined to be “in compliance” or “non-compliant.” Then DM vendor can go back to the employer and report the following: “10% of your population was identified at the screening as being at-risk for high BP. Of that 10%, 8% were already aware and are working with their PCP to reduce BP, 1% was not aware and is now working with their PCP, and 1% is aware and is non-compliant.” (No one can force the 1% to be compliant, of course.)

                  I’m not sure what kind of program could require a person to be on a medication as it relates to wellness program incentives/reporting/tracking. It’s about identification of risk factors – or at least it should be.

                  Then, the employer can take new information – say 30% of population is at risk for high BP and 20% are non-compliant. Now, when they revisit their benefit plan the following year they can review coverages for BP medications – maybe the cost of the various meds are too high and so people are not taking them.

                  Got off on the tangent there, but generally speaking – a wellness program shouldn’t dictate that a person MUST be on a particular medication.

                2. Judy

                  To get the premium discounts and bonuses into HSAs, my former company required

                  *BP in range (or medicated)
                  * Glucose in range (or medicated)
                  *BMI in range (or % weight loss)
                  * Cholesterol in range (or medicated)

                  Either you had the test to show, or you had to have your doctor sign a paper saying that it was being actively managed by medication.

                  I don’t know how it’s going, I left that company last spring, but it was clearly spelled out in the benefits package from Fall 2013. It was supposed to be a move from activity based wellness to outcome based wellness.

          3. MK

            I think you have a very optimistic view of this. The thing I find most worrying with tying financial incentives to wellness programs is that it could very well lead to the employer refusing to pay healthcare by making a case that you didn’t take the necessary steps to avoid needing it.

        5. Anonicorn

          The “not their business” and “not their money” lines are blurred even more when you work for a healthcare system and receive treatment under that same system.

          I firmly agree that my decisions about exercise or my CBCs are between me and my doctor and nobody else, and I’m particularly angry that my employer wants to penalize me if I don’t disclose that information to them (yes, that’s happening); however, I also realize that I pay almost nothing for treatment. I don’t agree with it, but I also can’t afford to refuse on principle.

          1. WorkingMom

            Anonicorn, if you have an employer who is penalizing you financially for not sharing your personal blood test results with your manager you need to report that. To be clear, the example here would be, “Anonicorn, you need to send me your lab tests by X date or you’ll have to pay the surcharge on your health plan” or along those lines. If your actual manager is asking you to provide your actual results – meaning they want to know what your glucose level is, that is HIGHLY illegal. HIGHLY. If the employer is asking you to participate but not share any information, that’s normal. But if they are specifically directing you to share your actual results (the numbers) with your manager, please report it.

            1. Anonicorn

              No, it’s not being asked for by or shared with my manager. But I do have to submit my lab results to HR by X date or I’ll have to pay a surcharge on my health plan (this is no different from last year when they called it an incentive; people are still paying more if they don’t want to share their information). While what’s happening is not illegal – again I stress I work for a healthcare system – I still find it pushing too far into my personal business and has no bearing on my work.

              1. Pearl116

                Anonicorn, is it your lab results you’re required to provide to HR, or your decision to participate in the plan? If you’re being required to provide your lab results to your HR department, please report it. The fact that you work for a healthcare system does not change your privacy rights under HIPPA (if you’re working in the U.S.)

        6. snikta

          What portion of your healthcare do you pay vs your employer? It is their money you are spending, more so than your own, when you consume healthcare.

      2. snuck

        Snikta,

        It depends on how long you have been and will be working for your employer though. And the overwhelming body of evidence shows that things like body size/weight, attitude towards smoking and exercise etc are long term and partly a result of your childhood experiences. This sort of monitoring might suggest the notion that people will become more involved in their own health and manage it more effectively, but the reality is that their health state is generally a long term proposition – for most people longer than their intended employment at the company. In America there is very little sick leave, the cost of medical care is crazily exorbitant, with much of it falling to the ill person anyway etc… I’m not sure how monitoring someone’s blood work (what are they looking for exactly? that’s crazy invasive!) will alter that unless a person has a chronic illness. And if a person has, or is diagnosed with, a chronic illness I suspect it would be far far better for a company to be as removed from involvement in that person’s medical history as possible, so that if there were ever any behaviour management issues there was no cause for disability discrimination claims. I wonder if the penny pinching by this sort of set up (I assume the insurance companies have suggested this, giving them a massive amount of information they don’t normally get to assess the risk of insuring individuals) to save a few dollars on the company insurance will be worth it when they lose good employees who don’t like the snooping, and are slapped with discrimination cases.

        Why not offer base insurance and a subsidised top up insurance for those who want it that offers a different range of coverage with associated conditions (that are then managed by the insurance company)?

      3. Bend & Snap

        Wow. This is a) untrue and b) a terrifying point of view.

        Go ahead and give up your medical privacy if you like. I’m not planning to. My company has no right to it.

        1. Raine

          In addition to not wishing to share the information with my employer, I object to the slippery slope of not having control over what happens to that information. If selling that information to another private company will bring in more money to slash health care costs, why on earth under this line of reasoning wouldn’t your company do it? Similarly, if the government asks your company to “voluntarily” hand over confidential medical information of its employees or choose to face a higher tax rate or the elimination of a break, then of course they’re going to disclose it.

          1. Artemesia

            I bet employers already have pretty good access to this private information through the insurance companies they pay for. Does anyone really think any of this is confidential if the company wants to know?

            1. Judy

              I’ve asked this here before and not had anyone answer.

              If a company is self-insured, do they get any breakdown by person of the amount of healthcare spending?

              I’m fairly sure from some of the presentations I’ve seen during benefit season, that they get a list of procedures without names (ie. we had 1 open heart surgery, 4 gall bladder surgeries last year), and they get overall spending per some sort of aggregate group (ie. this division had an average of $X vs that division had an average of $Y).

              1. Sloop

                If your plan is self-funded, your employer could receive a breakdown of amount of health care by specific person. “Sloop spent $10,000, most of it was due to X, Judy spent $3,000, hers was due to Y and Z” etc. Obviously that level of detail would not be shared in a benefits presentation, but I’ve seen employers include a slide on “our health care costs are going up – and here’s why”. A lot of times groups will take this route when it’s “preventable” high cost claimants, like smoking or obeseity.

                Depending on the employer, they are really going to focus on people with high cost care, but I have clients that isolate all of their employees that have pre-diabetic / diabetic co-morbidities and will send out “reminder” postcards for their annual eye exam, or to fill their preventive/maintenance medicines, etc.

              2. Julie

                My parents own a small business. They typically know who costs more and while names aren’t attached, my parents work daily at the business so it’s pretty clear who is who.

              3. fposte

                Seems likely, given that AOL CEO complaint about how much the company paid for “distressed babies.” There’s an interesting Forbes article that suggests AOL may have been doing self-insured wrong–not illegal wrong, but failing-to-cover-yourself-in-the-usual-way wrong. I’ll attach a link in a separate post–it’s got some interesting stuff about company health care.

                1. Erin

                  Thanks for this! I was just thinking that I’d heard something about that, but couldn’t remember the company.

              4. anonymous for this

                I went to fill something out at the HR office a week or so ago and someone mentioned a specific condition I have, that I hadn’t disclosed to that person. Not sure how they found out about it, but it wasn’t through me…

                Also, at our last meeting, when health care plan options had changed, one of the presenters mentioned a specific claim that was high, though not who the individual was. The way they phrased it made me think they knew, though….

              5. HRAnon

                If they want to, absolutely. Although they almost certainly pay a TPA (Third Party Administrator) to administer claims (and all of the big insurance companies also act as TPAs) if your company has a self funded plan, they ARE your insurance company, and can have access to whatever they want.
                Now, that being said, they are also bound by HIPAA and other laws which govern healthcare information, and that level of detail is unlikely to be shared outside of specific individuals authorized by your plan administrator. And not all companies want it.

            2. neverjaunty

              Nope. But there is a difference between a company having to sneak around HIPAA, and a company forcing you to openly sign away your privacy.

  4. Ann Furthermore

    #1: This is an annoying, invasive, Big-Brotherish trend that I don’t see ending any time soon. My company does it too. Each year you have to take a health survey, or pay an extra $10 per month (for you and your spouse) if you opt not to participate. You also have to do a tobacco usage attestation stating that you don’t use tobacco products of any kind, or pay an extra $50 per month (for you and your spouse).

    I’m sure it’s all legal, as my company would never have done such a thing if they had not already had an army of lawyers make sure they weren’t overstepping or breaking the law in any way. But it’s disturbing. I’m pretty sure that having to disclose your BMI is next, then disclosing how much alcohol you drink, and so on. Many companies blame it on the ACA, and there may be some truth to that, but I think it’s more just a convenient excuse to find new, inventive, and ever-increasing draconian ways to save money.

    1. Arjay

      If we choose not to participate in the wellness program, each covered adult pays an extra $80 a month, so for me and my spouse that would be $160 each month. I hate it, but I capitulate – and make my husband capitulate as well – to save the money. I will say though that the discount isn’t tied to outcomes, but to participation and behavior, at least so far. It’s still distasteful though.

      1. Bend & Snap

        That is gross. It’s enough money to really make a difference so it sounds like they have you over a barrel.

      2. Not So NewReader

        “the discount is not tied to outcomes”

        A little phrase with huge meaning, right there. But Big Brother skips all that and cuts directly to weight loss programs or whatever. Hey,what about people whose doctors feel that weight loss is not a priority and there are more pressing matters? What about people who cannot control the weight gain because of whatever- say, for example their scripts.

        Health care is not one size fits all. Everyone has different needs and different priorities.

        The real problem is that health care costs are through the roof and we need to figure out why. I’ve mentioned this before but it bothers me that my local hospital had a waterfall installed on one of their walls in the lobby. I don’t want to pay for that waterfall and it’s maintenance. When the hospital starts talking about budget problems, I think of the waterfall and wonder what other stupid things they are doing. (Yes, water runs down the wall. It’s big- you would not put this in the average home, it would not fit.)

        So, it seems to me that our (collective) plan so far is to try to figure out how to keep absorbing these costs and never ask why things are so expensive.

        1. Judy

          At my previous employer, they had those types of discounts for 4 or 5 years, and then last year they moved to outcome based discounts.

          * non smoking by blood test.
          * BMI in range (or over the year body weight reduction of a %)
          * A1C in range (or medicated for diabetes)
          * Cholesterol counts in range (or medicated with statins)

          Don’t get me started on the statin argument.

          1. Not So NewReader

            Even that is pretty shallow stuff.As an example: my father quit smoking and said “There. Done taking care of my health.”

            No, Dad, you have barely started.

          2. Katie the Fed

            This feels icky to me. I mean, I guess it’s like the health insurance version of discounts for drivers who take drivers ed classes and have good records, but…it just feels icky.

            1. Arjay

              I think this is an apt comparison. Everyone knows you have to have car insurance, but you hate the financial penalties if you ever have the bad luck to have to use it. Health insurance seems like it’s going down that same path.

              1. Ann O'Nemity

                I agree that it’s a fair comparison, but somehow it seems different when your employer is involved in all of this.

                1. Arjay

                  Oh, to be clear, I wasn’t justifying the issue. I was bemoaning the fact that health insurance is becoming as useless as car insurance! :)

          3. cuppa

            As someone whose A1C was one point over, and my doctor doesn’t seem to be concerned about it, I’m not a fan of that. I’m really not a fan over people looking at the results of one test and then directing my healthcare, period.

        2. Kristinyc

          Yes! I worked at a company that offered a program that had incentives for participating in weight loss and smoking cessation programs. Great. I’ve always been a pretty average weight (and veered toward the underweight side when I was younger), and I’ve never smoked in my life. While I’m sure those programs benefitted some people, there was no financial benefit for people who were already a healthy weight and not smoking.

          So, while I appreciate that incentivizing programs like this based on participation rather than results is less invasive, it’s not very inclusive for all employees.

        3. Artemesia

          It is no mystery why health costs are ‘sky high’ — it is because American pharma, hospitals and medical services and insurance are grossly overpriced. Things that cost a few hundred anywhere else in the world to provide are thousands here. The purpose of the US medical industry it to generate enormous profits for stockholders and they charge pretty much what they can. The waterfall in the lobby is a perfect example of how profligate these companies are as well as the multi million salaries of executives in the companies involved.

          In Europe, your doctor is probably in an apartment in an apartment building; your tests are done at a walk in lab; doctors are salaried — they are paid well, but they don’t profit ‘per procedure’. As we all know who have had tests and such here, each minor procedure is billed separately in a check up — it is like buying a car part by part and then paying someone to assemble it instead of a flat price.

          The worst part is that these systems have no figured out ways to transfer costs back to the patient in addition to insurance payments. Most Americans driven bankrupt by medical problems HAVE insurance; they still are stripped of all assets if they have a serious diagnosis.

          It is a broken system which produces poverty for the sick, poorer outcomes than many parts of the world and is enormously wasteful of resources.

          1. AnotherAlison

            Most Americans driven bankrupt by medical problems HAVE insurance; they still are stripped of all assets if they have a serious diagnosis.

            My son takes ADHD medication that now costs $210/month WITH insurance WITH a discount card. $7 per pill. . .it’s ridiculous.

            1. anonymous for this

              Yup. I stopped taking the second pill because it was too expensive. Now, I get to focus at work and be un-medicated/super scatterbrained at home.

            2. Hlyssande

              Seriously.

              The medication that actually works for my rosacea is something like $150/ month with insurance. The only reason I was able to use it is because the dermatologist gave me a discount card good for a year, but I couldn’t afford it anymore after that.

              1. cuppa

                Not to mention, those discount cards can be impossible to work with. I got one from my doctor once, and it was such a nightmare to get processed that I ended up ignoring it after a while.

            3. Malissa

              Want to come visit? It’s a 20 minute drive to Mexico from here. I bet you can save enough on the prescriptions to pay for the trip. An hour away from where I live is a state of the art hospital in Mexicali. I can afford to pay cash there for almost any treatment.
              Living this close to the border really makes the diffence in healthcare costs extremely apparent.

          2. Is It Performance Art

            Another factor is that a large amount of medical care in the US is unnecessary–as in it doesn’t improve health or it actually makes it worse. Unfortunately, some of the most popular medical care falls into that category – think screening PSA levels and screening mammograms for women under 50 of average risk for breast cancer. But, a lot of treatments and screening tests become so fixed in our minds as effective and good healthcare that it’s nearly impossible for people to accept that they’re ineffective or dangerous.

          3. JoAnna

            YES. The problem with healthcare in the U.S. isn’t entirely the current private insurer system, it’s the inflated and unreasonable costs associated with medical supplies, procedures, etc.

          4. Erin

            I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve always been healthy, but I had to go to the ER last month. I haven’t seen the bill yet, but I am dreading it. They ran a lot of tests!

        4. Ann Furthermore

          In my opinion, the basic problem with our healthcare system is that it’s immoral and unethical to profit from people’s health and well-being, or lack thereof. Yes, there are people who make unhealthy lifestyle choices (including me) but many more are financially penalized for what they got on their spin of the genetic roulette wheel. It’s shameful. The easiest way to address the skyrocketing costs would be for the healthcare portion of the insurance company to operate as non-profits. That would stop the really disgusting business practice of healthcare as an industry with profit margins to be maintained and increased, and shareholders to satisfy.

          I’m fine with other types of insurance bringing in profits. You want to drive like a maniac? Fine — you’ll pay more for car insurance. And so on.

          It’s also interesting to note that our healthcare costs in the US are out of control, and we are also the only country that allows pharmaceutical companies to advertise their products on TV. An mere coincidence, or a true correlation?

          1. Nashira

            Yes! I work for a major health insurance corporation and the way it operates makes me feel ill. It’s unethical in the extreme to focus on new ways to gouge people, especially with as predatory-feeling they get towards, say, disadvantaged groups who have never had health insurance before. Or the way they’re denying a coworker’s husband’s $40k claim for emergency surgery after a car accident, because the ambulance had the nerve to take him to an out-of-network hospital.

            Big business needs to get thrown out of healthcare.

          2. Ann without an e

            The US health care market has a multitude of busy bodies distorting the market, each one of them lobbying the government to pass laws to make sure it stays that way.

            EX. It is illegal for an Army Medic to open up a triage clinic at a marina where he does no more than remove fish hooks from peoples hands. You have to do it your self, or go see a doctor. That alone distorts the market. If I have an infected cut I can’t show my pharmacist my cut and tell him how much I weigh and what I’m allergic to and buy a bottle and walk away, I have to go to a doctor for that. Why? Because the AMA convinced the government that I am too stupid to make the distinction between the two situations above and a real medical issue. Just imagine how low medical costs would be if just those two things were legal.

      3. AnotherAlison

        Mine is $60/week more ($3000/yr more). Over the years of the program – they’ve done this for 5+ years now – the outcomes have been more and more important. You can get your discount and still be unhealthy, but you have to jump through even more points. For example, a “healthy” person might earn 4,000 of 6,000 required wellness points through the physical, while an overweight smoker might only earn 700 points due to her physical results being out of the acceptable range.

        Ours has gotten incredibly invasive this year, but $3,000 is more than I want to spend when I already have a $3,000 family deductible. An example of the invasiveness (beyond all the lifestyle questions and the physical)? In the past we had to log physical activity on the honor system. Now if you want credit for a workout, you have to link your heart rate monitor account, such as Garmin Connect or a Fitbit to the wellness website -OR- check in at a “partner” gym.

        1. JMegan

          Wow, that’s…wow. I’m speechless. (Another Canadian here, so we’re kind of speaking another language for me, but still. That’s incredibly invasive and personal.)

          And re the heart rate monitor – this means that walking, weight lifting, and yoga (among other things) no longer count as exercise, because you don’t get your heart rate up enough. I’m sure you know that, and I know it won’t get your company to change its mind, but it’s still such a limiting point of view of what “exercise” actually is.

          1. Judy

            I’d guess that depends on what limits you’re doing with the heart rate monitor. The “Fat Burn” zone is 60% of maximum heart rate. For my age, I think it’s 115+ BPM. I certainly get there within 2-3 minutes of sustained exercise walking. I’ve also worn my HRM when lifting, and with 5 minutes on the elliptical before (up to almost 150 BPM), I’m usually in the 120-130 BPM range during the entire time. I’ve not worn it during yoga, but I’d guess from my physical reactions, that I’m getting into that range, also.

            And Fitbit is pretty much just a pedometer, not a HRM.

            1. JMegan

              I guess I’m thinking more about exercise in general, than about heart rates and fat burning. Gentle exercise lots of benefits as well, even if it doesn’t lead to weight loss. Which is what I meant by “limiting” – it looks to me like the company is thinking that weight loss is the only goal of exercise, regardless of what specific individuals may be trying to achieve.

            2. AnotherAlison

              There are some fairly detailed requirements. You’re right about Fitbit. . .so that one logs your steps & you have to get 10,000/day for it to “count” for your physical activity points (10/day).

              The HRM requires your heart rate be above 60% max HR for a minimum of 30 minutes in a single session. For me, this is around 110, so it’s fairly easy to get there, but as someone who already works out regularly this is an annoyance. Instead of worrying about what *I* want to do for my personal training, I have to worry about *their* program. I prefer to work out longer/less frequently, but you get more points if you work out more frequently (i.e. bonus points for 5 workouts/week, but workouts only have to be 30 min). I have had two workouts that I haven’t got credit for because the Garmin Connect site is having connectivity issues.

            3. Arjay

              Ah, but Fitbit keeps coming out with fancier and more expensive models to try to keep up. The new Charge HR has a heart monitor in it, if you want to spend $150 to upgrade.

        2. AdminAnon

          That sounds like our program. I was lucky enough to be on my parents’ insurance until this year when I turned 26, so this is my first year with the new insurance. It’s terrible. Luckily, in addition to the wellness check and activity points, you can also earn Vitality Points by taking courses on the website (“How to Prevent Heart Disease,” “Healthy Eating Habits,” etc). The really crappy thing is that one of my workplace benefits is a free gym membership…to a gym that isn’t one of the “partner” gyms for our insurance program. So even if we do go to the gym, it doesn’t count toward our discount.

          1. Becky

            From what I know of Vitality, if your free gym does any sort of check-in process, you can submit a log of your gym visits to Vitality and they’ll count those workouts. Doesn’t help me of course because the two free gyms I have access to (one onsite at work and one at my apartment complex) are unstaffed and don’t have a check-in process.

            1. AnotherAlison

              Another gripe about Vitality gym stuff: Part of our Vitality program is discounts to the gym, which is good, right? The crappy part is it appears they have a corporate partnership with Lifetime, so you are reimbursed $35/mo with Lifetime, while other local gym reimbursements are only $10-$15. I’m sticking with my gym and not joining Lifetime (been there, done that), but it makes me feel like a drone that Big Brother even has a gym they prefer us to use, and then they have to know when I am there.

              1. AnotherAlison

                And while I’m ranting. . .how aggravating is it that the questionnaire asks things like “How many hours a day do you sit in front of a computer?” I assume these things weigh into our net score, but my JOB requires me to sit at least 8 hrs a day. Sure, I know this is unhealthy, but what would you like me to do? They did a pilot program for standing desks, but fewer than 10% of the employees got them.

                1. Hlyssande

                  I want one of those adjustable sit and stand desks so you can do one or the other. During conference calls I would definitely sit so as not to talk at everyone (we have relatively low cube walls), but otherwise I’d love to be able to stand and wiggle around a bit while doing my job.

          2. neverjaunty

            Oh yes, the free gym membership. Those are great if you work for a company that actually recognizes it’s OK for you to spend time at places other than work.

            1. AnotherAlison

              That’s how I feel about the whole damn program. Uh, hey employees, we’re gonna need you to log 150 minutes of exercise, prepare all your meals at home (preferably free range chicken and home grown swiss chard), cut out all sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. . .oh, and if you can work 60+ hours a week too and travel across the country with a day notice, that’d be greaaaattt.

        3. CheeryO

          What the actual eff? So my 30-50 miles of running per week wouldn’t count because I don’t do it at a gym or with a heart-rate monitor strapped to me? That’s gross.

          1. AnotherAlison

            And not only a HRM, but a compatible one (that can upload to the internet)!

            I already had a Garmin FR15 w/ HRM that I bought last year to replace my Garmin FR205, so I was set, but my husband doesn’t have one. I have a ~5-year old Polar HRM he could use, but it is not internet-capable. He’s been doing P90x3 workouts for 3 weeks and not getting any credit. He also has no gym membership, so he really can’t get any activity points unless we buy another HRM. I mean, we can afford it and whatever, but now you not only have to get up early and work out, you have to wear a monitor, upload your data, make sure that data synced with Vitality. . . grrr.

          2. AdminAnon

            I think you could probably use an app such as Map My Walk, because it notes the distance/time/pace. But I haven’t actually tried, so I may be wrong. Anyway, it’s a stupid system.

      4. Joey

        Arjay,
        There are no options that aren’t uncomfortable. The only options are to find ways to lower costs, increase premiums, reduce benefits, or a combination.

    2. Sabrina

      At my company you get points for certain activities. Having bloodwork done, participating in phone nurse counselling, etc. But also for improving things, like if you have high BP, if it comes down within the normal range, you get points for that. There are other ways to earn the points to get the discount, but there are some that are outcome based.

    3. Michele

      I have noticed that employers and others are using ACA as a convenient scapegoat for things that it does not affect. My company also started the invasive garbage this year. If we don’t do the annual survey, have BMI measured (because as an adult, apparently I don’t know how much I weigh or how tall I am), and have basic blood work done, we are charged an extra $40/month. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but it does add up. They say it is to make us aware of any health issues, but I suspect that the data will be used as a baseline, and we will be required to make “improvements” next year.

      1. De Minimis

        BMI is a ridiculous measurement anyway. It seems like only people who tend to be skinny/underweight to begin with can get to a “normal” BMI.

        1. Michele

          I am a triathlete who trains 15 hours a week. Today is a rest day, which means that I will only run 5 miles. I also weigh the same that I did when I graduated high school. My BMI has me as overweight.

        2. Judy

          Currently, I’m overweight on BMI, but my body fat % is just on the line between normal and overweight. When I’m right at the line between normal and overweight on BMI, my body fat % is in the normal range, but closer to athletic than normal. Based on what my body fat % shows my lean muscle mass to be, I’d be at an unhealthy body fat % if I were at the lower end of normal on BMI.

        3. Kelly L.

          It was never intended for the purpose it’s used for now. It was invented by a guy in the 19th century who was trying to determine the “average man.”

        4. Dan

          I’m a big dude, and not very athletic. My BMI is on the high side, no denying that. But the reason *I* fight the BMI measure for myself is that at my skinniest, I was a baggage handler for an airline. Moving 30-50 lb bags from your feet to your shoulders four hours a day is hella good exercise… and I was still on the high end of overweight on the BMI range.

          I had that job for two years, and came to two conclusions:

          1) I put in that kind of exercise, and I’m still borderline obese, according to that calculation? WTF.
          2) I have an office job now. I cannot replicate that kind of exercise on a regular basis. Even if I literally can, I refuse to. Again, that’s four hours in the gym five days a week, with fairly intense activity. Not gonna happen.

          So anybody who shoves BMI down my throat is going to get my middle finger stuck down theirs.

          [/rant]

          1. AnotherAlison

            On the flip side, you have my husband who is a small, athletic guy. He’s 5′-9″, 175 normally, which puts him in the overweight category. At 165 lbs, he can get into the “normal” range, and this is something like 6% body fat for him. Does that sound “normal”? That only happens when he works out 6 days a week and makes diet control his life.

          2. De Minimis

            They use it at work [for the fitness challenge I mentioned] but the health educator who records our info admitted to me that the best goal for most people is to just get out of the “obese” BMI range and not worry too much about getting to the normal range.

          3. WorkingMom

            So with you on this. The reason BMI is used so widely, is that’s a great tool when looking at a massive population – to provide general statistics.

            If we wanted to determine how truly fit/healthy/in shape a person is – the only really, truly accurate measure is the hydrostatic method. (Being dunked in a giant tank of water and measuring all kinds of things with your breathing, etc.) That would be pretty invasive at work :) I have done though – once in college as part of my training, and it was freaking awesome.

            1. Evan Þ

              Awesome due to the data, or awesome to actually do it? I’m intrigued; it sounds right on the borderline between fun and scary.

        5. INTP

          As far as I know, there are no studies even showing an “overweight” BMI to have serious health or longevity consequences when other variables are controlled for. Even for the obese category, results are often only found in very long-term studies. So it’s not even evidence-based practice to try to force everyone into the 18-25 BMI range, let alone one of the top markers of health as many people seem to think.

        6. WednesdaysMisfit

          The only person I’ve know at my company to have a healthy BMI is grossly underweight and it’s well known that she has an eating disorder.

    4. neverjaunty

      Do not assume that if your company does something, it must be legal because otherwise the lawyers would have stopped them.

      Some companies don’t run things by Legal first because ‘the lawyers will just say no, why ask them’. Some companies have in-house counsel who don’t understand all the laws involved. Some companies’ lawyers take the attitude of “it’s better to ask forgiveness for permission”, or “we’ll only be in trouble if we get caught.”

  5. Tabby

    # This sounds crazy and territorial. Why the heck inviting a person on leave to a social event would have anything at all to do with you is ridiculous.

    1. Apollo Warbucks

      The op also says that their feelings about the party could well be a symptom of not feeling accepted in the office in general, that at least show a bit of self awareness and like some thought has gone in to the situation.

    2. MK

      It would be crazy if the OP threw a tantrum and demanded that the person on leave should not come near the office or work-related events. Having hurt feelings, which I agree are somewhat irrational in the circustances, because your coworkers are being standoffish to you, who works alongside them every day, and make much of a person you never met, is human.

      That being said, the OP needs to stop correlating their own relationship with their coworkers with the person the are standing in for. It’s normal (and actually pretty great) that their office has such a work atmosphere that people miss the people on leave, are stil interested in them and are trying to include them occasionaly. It’s not the reason the OP’s relationship with them is not close yet.

    3. Jen RO

      This doesn’t make any sense to me too. I can understand OP is hurt about being left out, but being resentful that a current employee, who probably also feels left out (naturally, because she is temporarily out of the office)… what? I actually think it’s a mark of a great company that they invited the person on maternity leave to the party!

    4. Katie the Fed

      While I agree with the sentiment of what you’re saying, I don’t think calling her “crazy” is particularly constructive.

      The first month at a new job can be really, really hard when you’re trying to get to know your coworkers but feel like you’re breaking into an established group. Let’s cut her a little slack.

      1. Boo

        Totally agree. I started a new job in April last year, and while my new office is small and very welcoming, I’d forgotten how damn lonely the first 2-3 months can be.

      2. KJR

        Agreed. Most of us get our feelings hurt at one time or another, sometimes for rational reasons, sometimes for irrational ones. But really, who is to judge the validity of someone else’s feelings? The LW is writing in to get a read on where her situation falls from a neutral party. Good for her for asking.

      3. LawBee

        That is one thing that continually bothers me about this site. Mental illness is a real problem, and I feel like AAM (readers, commenters, Alison, etc) are generally really great at recognizing that. But then again – how many times have people been described as “insane”, “unhinged”, “crazy”? I’d love to see better word choices. :/

        (FWIW, I struggle with this on the daily. It’s such a part of our lexicon, but there are other words. Irrational is a good one. Nonsensical. Ridiculous. Time to break out those SAT words!)

        1. Mimi

          I agree, but to be fair, MK wrote “It would be crazy,” not “she would be crazy.”

          Let’s not look for insult where there isn’t any.

      4. Nervous Accountant

        This is my second season at my current job. Everyone here is super nice and welcoming and friendly, but I still started feeling a little out of place at the office Christmas party. Nothing that reflects on them, just my own insecurities I guess, but that’s the difference I think. We all have feelings, but we should recognize which are rational and irrational. If, lets say the OP was excluded from the event, I think everyone here would be on her side because it IS a rational thing to be hurt over. But this situation, being upset that someone else was invited, it is pretty irrational.

  6. Nina

    #2: People invite coworkers on maternity leave to holiday events because they’re still part of the company and they have every intention of returning. Seen it lots of times. Don’t feel bad about it.

    I think Allison’s right; the loneliness is the real issue here. Do you get an unwelcome vibe from your coworkers, or is there just no response at all? You’re still very new and they’re probably still feeling you out. Also, do they know that you’ll be staying on once Betty returns? Sometimes people don’t talk to temps very much because they figure they won’t be there very long.

    1. Matt (another)

      At my place, all former coworkers who can still be reached are invited to the Christmas party and a lot of them are coming every year. At smaller occasions, let’s say if one employee celebrates his/her birthday, working anniversary, retirement, whatever, he/she might also invite former coworkers, it’s not an unusual thing at all.

      1. Jen RO

        I love my company because former employees are always welcome at Christmas parties, to the extent that last year we even had a separate list where they could confirm participation.

    2. Steve G

      I remember 4 jobs ago I replaced someone who’d been there for 20+ years. When they came into the office everyone ran over to her, and when we had a party, everyone flocked around her. It did make me feel like crap, but it didn’t have to do with the person I replaced, it was my coworkers who were annoying me, some of them barely talked to me, but they ran to my predecessor with big smiles on their face…..but then again, there wasn’t much to do about that………

  7. Jeanne

    I despise insurance programs like in #1. I have kidney disease. I was born with it and no coaching will fix it. This kind of a program makes me feel less worthy than my coworkers because I hit the genetic lottery. I’m sure it’s even worse for some others. Then again, maybe it’s just best to fill out the forms and drown them in medical terms. Either way, it’s infantilizing. Am I an adult?

    I am concerned about the mention about tests appropriate for your age and sex. Are they forcing women to get pap smears? Are they requiring other tests beyond a checkup (colonoscopy, echo, etc.)? It seems to me this would be really problematic. And extremely disturbing.

    1. Sunshine

      Ours is strictly based on participation – no “value” is placed on your level of health. But yes, checkups are included in the package of points we have to obtain throughout the year in order to get the discount. It requires at least two of these. Also, while it is invasive and personal, it is all handled by a 3rd party company and none of the data is shared with my employer.

      I’d like to say it’s motivated me to exercise, but not so much.

      1. Natalie

        2 checkups? That seems like a lot. I only see my go every few years since I’ve moved into the age group that doesn’t need an annual pap/pelvic.

        1. Sunshine

          This would include your GP checkups, but also eye and dental exams. And of course your GYN annuals. So if I get my teeth cleaned and pap smear, I’m good for my points.

    2. snuck

      Yeah… what blood work are they including? Tests appropriate to age and sex… pap smears, mammograms, prostrate, blood pressure monitoring… but there’s grey areas too…. hormone levels to manage menopause, eye tests for the over 40s, checking for risk of diabetes, glaucoma, bowel cancer etc. There’s a multitude of checks that are recommended at certain ages/stages, but maybe this is part of what is wrong with the American system – so many checks, with no symptoms… Some are necessary, but many of these are then turned into annual checks etc.

      And it’s incredibly invasive. It is also assuming you have something wrong with you, medicalising you, setting you up for an expensive and intentional involvement with the medical system. I have an auto immune disease, I am at increased risk of many things… (and I am in Australia, so a different medical system thankfully) I hate to think what these sorts of programs would do to me… all the extra tests or whatever. I get regular testing of things that are necessary, they show me that I am managing my condition well and that is all … but I don’t want to share that info with all and sundry, or even a third party medical management company. That’s an expensive waste of money, and it means that the insurance companies would have a crazy amount of information about me that I might just not need to share with them to get insurance.

      1. Sabrina

        The bloodwork is generally things you’d have done at a regular yearly physical anyway. Like blood sugar levels, for example. My company also has a third party company handling it all. But I wonder how much they are paying them vs. how much they are saving on insurance, if anything.

      2. Not So NewReader

        Our medical system is entirely based on finding something wrong with us. They do not look at the things that are working correctly.

        And we don’t really have a snowball’s chance. I read somewhere that 90% of the population has a heart problem. This means that if they go looking for a heart problem on a person they will probably find one. Here’s a key point- some heart problems never morph into anything bigger and are not a key player in the person’s final illness.

        I don’t want treatments that are not going to discernibly increase my quality of life. Yes, I am concerned about ROI. I believe that I should have the right to decide what procedures I will have and what procedures I will not have.

        1. Sabrina

          And on the flip side if they don’t know what they are looking for because you’ve got a mystery illness and it’s not immediately obvious what’s wrong, you’re SOL. You could suffer for years without a proper diagnosis or treatment. House is just a TV show.

          1. Not So NewReader

            One of the secrets in the states now, is that people are dying while waiting to be diagnosed. That is what happened to my husband. It took them 12 weeks to diagnose him and week number 13 he died. He never started treatment.

            Later, I found out the drug they were going to give him would have killed him for different reasons, separate from his illness.

            Am shaking my head.

      3. Sunshine

        The blood work is not geared toward any specific conditions – just blood sugar, cholesterol, etc. Same thing you would get at a yearly physical.

        1. fposte

          Though of course those are geared toward specific conditions–it’s just that they’re such common conditions that they’re universally screened for.

    3. mac n cheese

      My employer just started one of these wellness programs, which does require that you get a laundry list of tests done, along with nutritional/weight loss coaching. People with certain chronic conditions are required to have a nurse assigned by the program and follow a “disease management program”. The laundry list of tests includes stuff like colonoscopies, pap smears, etc, including some that are *not* recommended by the USPSTF, like requiring mammograms starting at age 40. I will be paying the extra fine because I feel strongly that deciding what screening tests are appropriate is a decision that should be made between my doctor and me, and not by some bureaucratic machine.

    4. soitgoes

      Insurance costs already hit women in an obnoxious way. Once you get to be around 30, the costs go up, even if you’re healthy, because they assume that you’re going to be needing maternity care sometime soon. I’m currently uninsured because right now it makes more sense for me to throw all of my money at my student loan debt and pay the relatively small fee for not having coverage. My state’s subsidies are laughable…if I wanted to have insurance, I’d have to go from a 10-year student loan repayment plan to the 25-year one, which would att $50k in interest to my total payments. I’ll think about getting insurance when I’m 35.

    5. HR Manager

      I find it crossing a very dangerous line too. While I agree with viewpoint that many employees don’t have a general sense of how big a cost it is for companies to subsidize premiums (my company, for example, regularly pays anywhere from 300-800 per month for each employee on health insurance alone) — asking for health information is not a good idea. Most of the larger companies I work for do not want your health information. Even when you bring in that doctor’s note or relevant medical info — we’ve told employees – deliver it directly to that benefits file where only the person who administers the program may touch it, or send it directly to the disability carrier.

      With that being said, I would love it companies do encourage more voluntary, on-site wellness programs (weight watchers groups at work, yoga/pilates classes onsite, or a gym onsite). Cooped up sitting all day is not good for us, and I wish more employers presented feasible and reasonable options for staying healthy.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule

        More than a discount on my health insurance, I’d love it if my company just had a discount plan with some local gyms.

        My doctor and I get to determine what my health priorities are and we’ve agreed on a target weight that I can maintain, which is probably higher than a health insurance company would want, but it works for me and my doctor is satisfied with it. To her, my being active enough to be the only person in my family not on blood pressure or cholesterol medication is an huge achievement.

        1. Joey

          Gym discounts are only good for people that actually use them. And if you’ve ever seen data you’d know there’s a small percentage of people that use a gym regularly and most new folks only use them for a little while before they stop going.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule

            Wellness programs are only good if people use them, too.

            I was expressing MY personal preference – that I’d rather have the option to get a discount on my gym membership versus participating in a wellness program through the job that is the cause of most of my chronic health problems.

      2. Jen RO

        Those numbers are… wow. If I bought insurance directly from the insurance company it would be about 20 EUR a month (so I guess my company pays less than an individual would). What I never got was what exactly is included in health insurance in the US? Does this cover surgery? Medicine? Regular doctor visits?

        The typical private insurance offered by companies here includes doctors’ visits (all specialties) and most routine tests, but not (or very few types of) surgery, hospitalization, dental or medicine. You usually have to pay extra for pregnancy coverage, but the sum is small (a couple euros a month).
        The regular insurance (offered by the state and paid automatically by your employers) covers pretty much everything, from hospital stay to medicine. It definitely has its drawbacks, such as most state hospitals are crap and sometimes the free medicine is not available… but anyone, no matter how poorly paid, can be sure that they *will* be treated.

      3. Joey

        hr manager, I’m sure you know that getting people to change their habits isn’t as easy asking them to.

    6. KJR

      Here are two different approaches that I have first hand knowledge of, just for comparison’s sake. I have a close relative who works for the Cleveland Clinic. Their employees can save quite a bit of money on their premiums, but the requirements are very stringent. On the other hand, my company offers a discount program that can be used in three tiers – you can participate in 1, 2, 3, or none of them, and can receive up to 15% off your premiums. The three tiers are an annual physical, non-tobacco use, and filling out an online Health Risk Assessment. The form the company receives back is the non-tobacco use. I’d say about half our employees participate to some degree. We considered discontinuing it, but received negative feedback on doing so from those that do participate. It’s a nice discount for what you have to do, and it’s not overly invasive (no test results, weight requirements, etc.) BUT, we are not offering the same level of incentive/cost savings that Cleveland Clinic does either.

    7. INTP

      The ones I’m familiar with don’t penalize you for anything like that. It’s basically an incentive to get preventive care (check ups, weigh ins, blood pressure and sugar screenings, etc.) There’s no passing or failing a screening. those might exist, but I haven’t seen them.

      The problem I do see is if your employer is entitled to the information in some way. The employer should only be allowed to know whether you got your screening, NOT the results which might be used in a discriminatory way.

      1. Joey

        Turn it around. Would you want to pay for an employee’s healthcare costs that could have been fairly easily prevented?

        I know Id be pissed if I hired some smoker who made my rates go through the roof because of smoking related health problems and wouldn’t stop smoking.

          1. Joey

            I’m speaking relatively of course. It’s way easier to quit smoking and avoid it’s health effects than say preventing a genetic condition for example.

        1. INTP

          Would I want to? No. Hell, I wouldn’t WANT to employ someone with cancer who would need cancer treatments and lots of sick leave when I could replace them with an equally competent healthy person. But there’s a reason that your employer is not entitled to be privy to that information unless you choose to tell them.

          Employers are free to choose not to employ smokers if they wish, and many of them do. But you’re getting into very dangerous territory if you want to argue that employers should get to decide which healthcare problems are preventable, penalize employees for not sharing information about it, and then use the information you do get to make decisions about who gets promoted or laid off. You’d wind up with a lot of careers being burned because of something in an actuarial table.

  8. A Kate

    #2 A month isn’t THAT long to have been working somewhere, and I feel like it’s normal to not fit in at that point. I had similar anxieties at my last job. Everyone was really nice to me at work, but it was the kind of office where people often got together after work, and I wasn’t included at first. My predecessor moved to another department, so she was still around, and my whole team attended her wedding together. I obviously didn’t expect to be invited to a near stranger’s wedding, but it still felt a little weird when they were talking about it around me at work. Also, she and my boss both smoked, so they would take smoke breaks together and clearly had a strong friendship, whereas my relationship with my boss was more professional at that point.

    By the six-month mark, everything had changed. I’d attended a conference with my boss, and traveling together helped me get to know her really well. My boss suggested having occasional after work drinks. I was invited to a coworker’s home for a new year’s party. A year later, another new person started in my department, and she and I are now best friends (although I don’t work at the company anymore). Some workplace cultures can be very intimate, but it can also take a while to find your place in them. If you’re not getting an overtly negative vibe from your coworkers, just keep being nice to everyone and let time do its thing.

    1. Not So NewReader

      This. OP, just give it a little more time. I think Alison is right, her presence at the party drew your attention to the problem in an “in your face” way.
      And I am not too sure this is so big that you can’t work through it. You are indicating that you have usually made friends on the job, so I think this will happen here, too. For whatever reason, (holiday madness?) the process is not going as fast as it usually does, but I think it will happen. You sound like a very thoughtful person. If we can see that in a short letter from you, I am sure your coworkers who are with you all day, will definitely notice.

    2. Felicia

      I felt the same way after a month into my job, and finally six months in i’m starting to feel like i fit in. And they were all very nice from the beginning, just very close to each other.

    3. Oryx

      Yes, it took me a long time to find my place at this job. Some of that was because of a merge and I came from a different branch and it was just a whole big mess. But it takes time when you are the new person and every one else already has their pockets of people they hang out with.

  9. Poe

    Can we PLEASE stop calling female administrators “office gals” as per OP3? Whatever you think of her and her company, belittling her with a name like that is wildly inappropriate.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I made this comment down below but I’m moving it up here so people see it before replying:

      I agree, but I want to balance that with a need to not wordsmith letter-writers — and also remind people that once something like has been pointed out, please don’t pile on by continuing to add to it. It ends up derailing the discussion.

      (I wrote this after there were already numerous replies here, but please don’t add additional ones.)

    2. Lizzy May

      I’m glad you said this. I don’t know if it’s the OPs term or the person at the company but it bugs. It downplays that woman’s professionalism and ties administrative duties to “women’s work.”

    3. Illini02

      This came up before. I guess I don’t see the big deal. Would you think its just as disrespectful to call a male the “IT guy” or the “accounting dude”? Those seem pretty equivalent to me.

      1. HM in Atlanta

        Dude – probably. Guy, probably not. Dude, when used to describe someone in a professional setting, is usually meant to be demeaning or belittling (accounting dude describes a man that works in accounting that’s an airhead or who you’re making fun of because of how he dresses and draws the same corollary). That’s the same with the word gal. There’s really isn’t a descriptor of women that is analogous to guy (a neutral, conversational word to denote “man”).

        I’ve never heard someone use the word gal – and unfortunately, I’ve heard it a lot in the south – in a professional setting to be a neutral term for woman. The person who used the term is always using it to belittle the person or the role that person fills.

        1. My Fake Name is Laura

          Also, in many places in the South (even as far as Texas) “gal” was a derogatory way to refer to any or all black women.

      2. Another Fed

        Nobody would say “the office guy” though. If you said “the IT gal,” then I would consider it the equivalent to “the IT guy.” My thought is the offense being the denial of a meaningful title/job description, but that might just be because of how task oriented I am – the person’s role is the most useful information about them you can give me.

      3. neverjaunty

        You must be young. “Gal” is one of those antiquated terms like “girl Friday” or “co-ed” from the days when women in an office setting were seen more as a novelty than a serious co-worker.

      4. Burlington

        The difference is that one applies to a group that has historically been undermined by language at every turn. The other one could be thought of as derogatory, but doesn’t have the oomph of all of human history (not to mention discrimination that is alive and well today) behind it.

    4. Ezri

      Agreed. While I agree with Alison that ‘gal’ isn’t any more offensive than ‘guy’ in general context, if someone referred to me as an ‘office gal’ when discussing my work persona I’d be pretty irritated. I wouldn’t imagine a male administrator (or any other role, really) would be pleased to be the ‘office guy’ instead of his real title.

    5. newbie in Canada

      Thank you! I came here to comment on that very thing.

      It really irks me to hear, “oh just give that to one of the girls…” referring to our admin staff. They are grown women in a professional job.

      I love our admin staff. Our office couldn’t function without them.

  10. RB

    #1: This has been in place at my company for as long as I’ve worked there (5 years) and most of my friends who work in the private sector have it at their companies as well. Blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and weight, and then there are various programs we can participate in to earn the points needed to get the discount. I don’t like doing it, but the discount is fairly significant and this is all stuff that I should be monitoring anyway. Participation is optional, but most of my coworkers choose to participate.

    1. Loose Seal

      Our discount is over around $225 per month (me and my husband on the same plan). I don’t know how much salary other people bring home, but that’s too large a number for us to leave on the table. That alone makes me feel as though it’s not really a “discount” but a mandatory thing. If ours were just ten bucks a month like a commenter upthread, I’d feel like it was more of a take-it-or-leave it discount.

  11. Illini02

    #1 I guess I’m in the minority here, because I would have no problem these incentive problems. I have friends who get discounts on their insurance for going to the gym a certain number of times a month or if they quit smoking. I’d love that. Granted, I don’t smoke currently, but just the gym thing alone would make me happy. As long as it is truly optional, I don’t see a problem with having a discount for something that makes you healthier (or is at least perceived that way). Its like how cities give discounts if you take public transportation. These things are fine to me.

    1. Sadsack

      Yeah, it doesn’t bother me either. I get that my company is trying to keep costs down, and my participation is voluntary. I start out the year trying to go along with the wellness program so I can get a discount, but then I usually end up forgetting to f0llow through with all of the steps, like tracking exercise and the like. If not for the wellness program at work, I would probably not have had the blood tests that identified my slightly elevated cholesterol this year, so there’s that.

    2. Natalie

      I like the gym thing because it seems to be incentivizing the “right” thing – getting some physical activity – rather than proxies for activity like gym membership or weight. There are other ways to do wellness programs right that I think have come up here before, that generally fall into the category of making it easy for employees to make good choices, but not penalizing them if they chose not to participate.

      That said, it sounds like some of these wellness programs are a lot more invasive and/or poorly thought out.

    3. neverjaunty

      There’s a difference between incentives (like a gym membership discount) and tests that invade your medical privacy.

      1. Burlington

        I think the main thing for these programs is that they need to incentivize doing tests themselves that are good to do (incentivizing women to get paps at regular intervals, for instance) as opposed to tying anything to the *results* of the tests.

        1. LBK

          Yes, we’ve had a few iterations of this at my office and it’s always just about going to do the tests (that you should be doing anyway, which is kind of the point). The incentive isn’t based on the results of those tests, and at my office at least none of it is managed or reported through my employer. Everything goes through our insurance company.

        2. neverjaunty

          What would really incentivize doing those tests is if they were 1) free or very low cost, 2) completely confidential to the same extent as tests done in my doctor’s office and 3) easily available without having to take time off work. Being voluntold to go get tests for my employer’s benefit in my off time? Responding with language inappropriate for AAM.

      2. Joey

        We did away with gym membership discounts because the participation trailed off significantly. Sad thing is few people noticed after the initial excitement wore off.

        1. neverjaunty

          While I don’t know the situation at your company, the last time I worked at a place that gave a gym membership discount, people stopped participating because the company culture was “you should be spending as many waking hours here as is humanly possible”. When you are regularly expected to work a minimum of 10-12 hour days, six days a week, it’s a little hard to find the time and energy to hit the gym. So people figured out that it was stupid to pay *any* money for a gym membership they rarely if ever got to use.

    4. Jeanne

      You don’t have a problem with being required to have a colonoscopy, a pap smear, an echocardiogram, a prostate exam? Then if anything is found, false positives or not, being required to have follow up care? I do have a problem with that and I’m someone who already sees doctors constantly due to medical issues. This is what the OP is referring to by saying sex/age appropriate procedures.

      1. illini02

        I guess here is how I see it. If you make it an incentive (which this sounds like more than requiring) for people to go to their primary care physician once a year for a check up, than no. I have no problem. At that point, if your physician suggests certain tests, you should go, but I don’t think its your company’s right to have those results or anything, nor do you HAVE to go. But you can easily get a receipt from your doctor for a check up

        1. Jeanne

          I understand what you’re saying. But as many people have reported here, and the OP wrote, it is not just a matter of seeing your PCP. It is much more invasive with many more requirements. Not at every company but growing to more companies. I have a problem with all requirements more specific than see your doctor. At my company they brought in a trailer. You had to do a blood test, a urine test, and a physical exam that included weight and blood pressure. Then HR had those results and circled the things you had to follow up with your doctor. I politely refused. I told them I had my own doctors. Luckily this was before incentive plans.

          They are not incentive plans. They are penalties no matter what they are called. You pay more for privacy.

  12. Bend & Snap

    I won’t use my company’s health portal because I’m not comfortable connecting my medical info to a company property. EMRs would be nice but I’m passing for now. My work friends think I’m a crazy conspiracy theorist.

  13. Observer

    #3 Covering for maternity leave

    As others have pointed out, inviting people who are on leave and planning to come back is totally normal. So much so that it would be odd if she were NOT invited. She is still part of the office, after all.

    This leads me to wonder it perhaps part of the reason you are not feeling accepted is your attitude. The rest of the unit may sense negativity from you and be reacting to that. Or possibly, it’s just that you are misreading things, much the way you seem to have misread this action.

    I’m not saying that this IS what is happening, but it’s certainly worth considering as a contributing factor.

    1. Observer

      I just want to clarify something – I’m not suggesting that you are misbehaving. But attitude does have a way of coming through.

      The other potential issue is style mismatches. For instance, if you are more formal and also wait to be invited into a conversation, but that’s not how your office operates, they could see you as just as stand-offish as you see them.

  14. Jubilance

    I’ve worked for 3 large companies since 2006 and each one has had programs like what are described in #1. At my current company, they bring in nurses and schedule appointments to get the screening done – it takes all of 15 mins to take weight, measure waist circumference (a better measure of obesity than BMI), take BP & stick your finger for glucose & cholesterol. There’s also an online survey about your behaviors that takes another 15 minutes to complete. As healthcare costs continue to rise, companies are going to try to find ways to lower their costs, especially when you’re talking about big companies with thousands of employees. I appreciate that my company at least tries to make it convenient and not judgemental – there’s no mandatory coaching/counseling or tracking required throughout the year.

    1. Sunshine

      I agree with this. At least the company is trying to reduce costs instead of jacking up my premiums.

    2. Elizabeth West

      That’s pretty much how my company does it. I always refuse to be weighed, however. We have the tobacco-free discount as well. And a health fair, where we get freebies like pens, etc.

    3. ExceptionToTheRule

      My problem with this is that I have a doctor I see every year who does those same things while taking into account my family medical history, personal health history, current concerns, etc and can actually counsel me on any trends she sees with my health. There are people who will go for their annual employer mandated screening and call it good for the rest of the year, when if they were seeing their own doctor, there might be some red flags that would lead to proper preventative care.

  15. Rebecca

    #1 – I worry that programs like this will slide down the slippery slope of hiring only people who fit into a certain health metric based on strictly numbers. Just because someone’s cholesterol is a bit high does not make them a bad employee, nor does it mean that they will cost the company extra money via health care costs or missing work. Ditto a higher BMI than normal. Plus, some people, no matter how they try, how much they exercise, or how much they starve themselves, will never achieve the numbers that are deemed normal.

    Here’s a bit of anecdotal evidence. My Aunt was thin all through her life. She was very active and athletic. She didn’t smoke or drink. Her blood sugar was normal. But, she had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart problems, and then developed Alzheimer’s disease and died. Her BMI was normal. So, to look at her, she should have been extremely healthy, but she wasn’t.

    Not everyone is the same, and not everyone can achieve the goals our doctors have deemed “normal”. I just hope this trend doesn’t turn into a punishment for people who are less than perfect.

    More importantly, I really wish health insurance wasn’t so tied to employment here in the US. It’s true that some people stay in crappy jobs just for the insurance coverage.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Great example. I know there are certain medications that will raise cholesterol temporarily. So without doing any homework, it could appear that a person has high cholesterol and they get dinged for that. Hey, they are only doing what the doctor told them to do- taking this particular script with a side effect of temporarily raising cholesterol.
      Shallow thinking is a good way to tick off lots of people.

      1. Sunshine

        I don’t know how it works for everyone else, but the program at my company doesn’t “ding” you for any of the findings. The discount is solely based on participation in the program, nit related to how healthy any of us actually are.

      2. Hlyssande

        High blood pressure and weight gain are common side effects for a lot of medications, so someone would get dinged for that.

        Wellness programs are a nightmare for people with chronic illnesses or disabilities.

    2. Michele

      Things like that happen all of the time. I spent a couple years going to specialists to find out why I was light headed all of the time. The diagnosis–my BP just runs low, and no underlying cause has been found. I am not underweight, blood work is text book, I wore a heartrate monitor for a month, and thousands of dollars of tests have been conducted for me to be told to eat a lot of salt. So I took the questionaire for insurance, and it spit out an answer that I eat too much salt.

      1. blackcat

        Oof. I also have low blood pressure and have been told to eat a lot of salt. Fortunately, my doctor at the time was happy with the fact that on *both* sides of my family, most women have very low blood pressure. So I never had to deal with that testing.

        I learned for my old employer’s health check that I should jog over there. My heart rate still showed normal, and my blood pressure got a boost. And I did not get hassled about it. On the other hand, I had to get lectured repeatedly about how I wasn’t managing my asthma appropriately by not getting yearly testing. Despite the fact that I have next to no symptoms these days (respiratory illnesses are AWFUL for me, but otherwise, I’m like a normal person), and *the test wasn’t covered by insurance*. That’s right–my insurance company dinged my “points” for refusing to pay several hundred out of pocket for a test I didn’t need.

    3. Joey

      No what will happen is more and more companies will go to high deductible plans where you will be forced to manage your healthcare spending

      1. Boo

        Just out of interest (I’m in the UK so never had to deal with health insurance issues luckily) how exactly is one supposed to “manage” one’s healthcare spending? Good/bad health isn’t something which can be predicted and budgeted for, like next month’s water bill. I’m just a bit puzzled by your statement.

        1. Judy

          Theoretically, they want you to log into your app on the way to the hospital to pick a hospital with lower costs, or better outcomes or something.

          The one way I see it working, I’ve yet to come across a way to do it effectively. Several insurance companies have a web portal to look up what different pharmacies charge for a given medication. But they all seem to work in a given way. Pick the medication, pick the pharmacy off a list, see the cost, then back to pick the medication again. You can’t pick the medication, and then say show me all the pharmacies within 10 miles.

          1. Caroline

            There are some programs that do that. I used to work for a company which provided exactly that. (That is, I worked for the company building the software to do that, and we sold it to other companies for their employees).
            You type in the name of the med, or test or procedure and get quality and cost ratings of places to have it done in a certain geographic range.

            1. Judy

              I’ve seen it for the test or procedure, but I’ve not yet run into a pharmacy plan that makes it easy to see which pharmacies have it for the best price. Between my plans and my husband’s we’ve had maybe 5 in the last 4 years. And now, when doctors are wanting to send the prescriptions electronically, you have to know “right then” which pharmacy to have them send it to. (So it doesn’t make any sense for anything but maintenance medications.)

              1. Loose Seal

                And in my state, you have to have the pharmacy’s name (where you plan on filling the prescription) down to their address, if there’s more than one Walgreen’s in your city, for instance, printed on the prescription for Schedule II and III drugs. Then no other pharmacy is allowed to fill it for you. It started out as a law to crack down on people filling narcotics prescription with the intention of misuse but it makes it tough for people that just broke their leg and want to quickly fill their Percoset. Some pharmacies won’t fill your pain med for you unless you get all your meds filled there. So shopping around for the best price on blood pressure meds won’t help if you need your Adderall filled too; you’re pretty much stuck with the same pharmacy.

        2. Joey

          Generics Rx’s instead of name brands, price shopping, taking your maintenance meds to prevent bigger issues which cost more, leading a healthier lifestyle to help with things like diabetes, back problems because of weight issues, stopping smoking to help control heart and lung issues. I can go on for a long time

          1. Joey

            This might shock you but we offer the incentive of free annual physicals, recommended screenings based on age, and maintenance meds and tons of people still don’t take advantage.

            There are tons of people who’s behavior won’t change regardless of the incentive until it starts hitting them financially.

            Even funnier is an incentive is nearly always way less effective than the equivalent penalty. That is, people are less apt to take advantage of a reward, but will exert more energy to avoid a penalty.

          2. aebhel

            You literally cannot price shop for procedures in most U.S. facilities. The prices are not charged evenly across the board and not available for review ahead of time by any healthcare provider I’ve ever heard of.

            Also, if you think dropping people from their health insurance encourages healthier lifestyles, you’ve clearly never met anyone who didn’t have insurance.

          3. Joey

            You’re right. A lot of things hospitals are hard to price shop fo major procedures but most high deductible plans are designed to cover major stuff. But it’s pretty easy to price shop prescriptions, doctors visits, minor procedures.

            High deductible plans aren’t dropping people from coverage . It’s just like a car insurance company increasing your deductibles in exchange for reduced premiums. It just makes you have to price shop up for most of the minor things.

        3. aebhel

          You ‘manage’ your healthcare spending by having the good luck to not get sick or by paying out the wazoo when you are.

          Healthcare coverage in the U.S. is a joke.

          1. Joey

            I switched to a high deductible plan one year. The first time I had to buy Rx’s I went to my regular old Walgreens and after spending a few hundred dollars I called around and found out I could have gotten them much cheaper at Costco. I literally had no idea what the prices were before then other than the copay I paid.

      2. Xay

        That’s already happening and has been happening since the mid 2000s when the HSA boondoggle started. The company I just left put everyone on high deductible HSA plans WITH an additional wellness component if you wanted cheaper premiums.

      3. ExceptionToTheRule

        I’ve never understood how I’m supposed to “manage” my healthcare costs when the prices aren’t available until after the service is provided. It’s not like my doctor’s office has a menu board like McDonald’s with the cost of every procedure listed.

        1. Joey

          You ask. Every doctors office I’ve ever called has gladly told me how much I’d have to pay for a regular visit on my high deductible insurance plan. In fact some places have even offered me discounts if I pay with cash and reimburse myself from my HSA account.

          1. ExceptionToTheRule

            I’m asking this out of genuine interest not to be snarky. So, say you’re having periodic chest palpitations or any other *could be serious, but might not be serious symptom here* and you go see your regular doc (who it sounds like you know exactly how much they charge for an office visit) and she/he wants to send you for diagnostic testing at a third-party clinic, do you say “no, not until I call and find out how much that’s going to be?”

            1. Loose Seal

              Well, I’ve actually refused to go places for recommended testing that I knew were out-of-network so I don’t think it’s a big stretch for me to say that I would probably ask the doctor to wait until I researched prices (or for my heart rate to even out on it’s own). I think I’d do it regardless of how ill I was unless I was unconscious or otherwise incapable of doing it.

            2. Joey

              Id say “I’m on a high deductible plan. Can you refer me to someone that will work with me seeing that I’m on a high deductible plan? If not, can you tell me what type of procedure or testing I need to get done so I can shop around and compare?”

              1. ExceptionToTheRule

                Next genuine question: where does determining the quality of a clinic/hospital/doctor fit into your comparison shopping? Does it matter or is it less important than cost?

                I ask because none of this stuff is ever covered when annual enrollment rolls around and the company is pushing the CDHP/HSA plans and there never seems to be anyone to ask.

                1. Joey

                  Just like any other purchase. You balance quality with price and the nature of the service. For example I have no problem getting tests done at emergency care clinicswho have good technology, but where you might see a different doc every time.

                2. Joey

                  It’s uncomfortable because we’ve been conditioned to never ask about price and only worry about our copays and deductibles.

                  It’s much more work of course but not much different than researching any other purchase.

    4. neverjaunty

      Yes, this. How many letters have we had about employers who use random tests or personality quizzes to ‘sort’ new employees? Is it really that far-fetched to think that an employer might decide to use medical tests for the same reason? I mean, in some parts of the world your blood type is thought to determine your personality.

    5. I'm a Little Teapot

      Yes, anything that involves employers getting employees’ health information really reeks of disability discrimination. Even if they aren’t using the information to get rid of potentially expensive employees (or never hire them in the first place), there’s what’s known in professional ethics as the “appearance of impropriety” – it would be hard to prove that they aren’t if they start getting hit with lawsuits.

  16. sally

    #1 you can thank Obamacare and the insane taxing of “Cadillac” plans that will start in the next year. Just wait…it’ll get worse. First they’ll start with smokers (if they haven’t already) then people who aren’t in the range of what the government says is the “ideal” weight.

    1. Observer

      I don’t want to get into a debate on Obama care. But weight guidelines are not government numbers – they are primarily actuarial numbers from insurance, along with some adjustments from other studies. What makes those weight numbers “ideal” is not someone’s idea of how we should live, what we should look like etc. but that they are co-related with the lowest risk of death and serious illness at a given age.

      And, yes, I’m aware that there are outliers; that we are primarily talking about statistics, so we are looking at co-relation that may not necessarily be about causation; that there is evidence that there are groups for which the correlation is not as strong; and that weight is far from being the only factor in someone’s health.

    2. MJH

      This is not the result of Obamacare. Costs have been rising since the early 2000s at least (when I started working). I have gone from paying nothing with a small deductible to paying $60/pay period ($120 a month) with a $1500 deductible, and that has very very little to do with the ACA. (Most all the increases happened before the ACA was a law.)

      I’m sure insurance companies and others find the ACA to be a convenient scapegoat and a fun political football, but blaming the ACA for this makes me very angry, especially when I know MULTIPLE people who are now able to have insurance when they couldn’t before thanks to Obamacare.

      1. Kelly L.

        Back in 2008, I was working in a drugstore during the election, and a few weeks after the election, this one guy’s medication cost went up because of something to do with his Medicare Part D donut hole or something. He went on this huge rant blaming it on Obama and how Obama had just been ruining everything since he got into office.

        …He wouldn’t be inaugurated for another couple of months. But that didn’t stop this guy. :D

    3. Goldie

      My previous job “started with smokers” long before anyone knew who Obama is.

      I do not see it as much as a consequence of ACA, as the insurance companies doing what they do best – milking the members for all they’ve got. Granted it’s possible that insurance companies see ACA as a threat, because it forces them to stay more competitive as people now have more of a choice to opt out of their employer’s plan.

      1. Judy

        Which part? I certainly know that my previous company was very vocal in showing us during benefit season the fall before last the costs of healthcare per employee, and mentioning the 40% tax on healthcare spending of more than $10,000 per employee. They also had an infographic in the benefits information about how they were actually spending more money by giving us health insurance than they would pay in penalties for forcing us onto the exchange.

        That company was instituting for 2014 plan year outcome based insurance incentives:
        * nonsmoking by blood test
        * A1C in range (or on diabetes meds)
        * cholesterol in range (or on statins)
        * blood pressure in range (or on BP meds)
        * BMI in range (or loose X% body weight in year)
        And not only reducing premiums on these, but changing the coinsurance percentages for the next plan year based on these.

        1. Hlyssande

          * BMI in range (or loose X% body weight in year)

          Ah yes, so nice for people who are unable to do this due to disability or necessary medications that make it impossible to lose weight (or for whatever other reason).

    4. Kelly

      Health care costs have been going up in the US for the past 25 years. It’s a combination of a number of factors, including people living longer, a change in how and what people eat. I also think that many individuals thanks to the internet are now more aware, for both good and bad, of their health issues. I do think that doctors should be asking about people’s eating habits in addition to their drinking and smoking habits. I think that compulsive yo-yo dieting over an extended period of time is just as harmful to a person’s health as smoking and drinking because of the damage it can do to their internal organs. I think everyone knows multiple individuals who have lost a significant amount of weight and regained it back multiple times. I can’t imagine the damage that does to your metabolism and stomach, not to mention your skin expanding to accommodate the extra weight.

    5. Natalie

      Y’all, this is a regular drive-by visitor. I’ve never seen them come back to actually join a discussion.

      1. neverjaunty

        Yeah, this is the same person doing the “people die in Canada waiting for doctor appointments!!!!!” stuff upthread.

    6. KAZ2Y5

      Insurance costs have been rising way before the Affordable Care Act came about. From 1999-2004 the insurance my family had (BCBS from my late husbands employer–but we had to pay all the premiums) went up approximately $100/month every year (starting at $500/month and ending in 2004 at $975/month)

    7. Malissa

      While this statement is inflamitory, there is a kernal of truth, Yes the ACA will tax plans that pay over $10,200 in premiums for an employee. This figure as written into the law was not indexed for inflation. So rising health care costs relate to rising premiums are quickly headed towards bumping into the Cadillac Tax.
      One way to keep healthcare costs down is disease management. The first step in disease management is actually catching the problem early. Which is where all of this wellness incentive stuff comes into play. If an insurance company can catch the high blood pressure before the person has a stroke, that’s hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings.
      Daily management of Diabetes is way better than treating a diabetic coma. So yes insurance companies have great incentive to push these wellness programs.
      Yes, I’m leaving out the obvious profit factor here. Because that’s another debate.

  17. Katie the Fed

    #1 – I realize there’s going to be a lot of debate about this one here, but if it makes it any more palatable, the company probably won’t have access to that information, and it stays confidential under HIPAA. I think most likely it’s done by the health care provider. I don’t particularly like it either – I think my health is my business but I also understand that health care costs are getting so out of control in this country that there’s a need to do something. I’m curious if there are any studies showing that these programs are actually effective though.

    #2 – New jobs are hard. And when you’re feeling out of place and trying to be accepted in a new job it’s easy to lose perspective on things. I think this might be one of those times where you’re losing a bit of perspective – which is understandable. Obviously you handled it well by writing in here instead of, like, throwing your eggnog in someone’s face :)

    Give it some time – I’d say it takes at least 3, sometimes 6 months to actually feel part of a new “work family.” Just keep doing your job and being friendly to folks.

    1. Not So NewReader

      I would be interested in finding out what the insurance companies do see.
      For example, take an employer who has 100 employees. It is ascertained that 50 of them have high cholesterol. Does the insurance company know that 50% of Teapots, Inc have high cholesterol?

      I understand the employer does NOT know who has what. And that is good thing. But are the stats being reported to the insurance companies, who in turn use it for justification to raise their rates?

      I worked for a place where an insurance company pressured us into keeping track of people’s driving records. I always wondered what would happen if the employee kept an employee on in spite of his bad driving record. I wondered how the insurance company planned on using that info.

    2. HM in Atlanta

      It’s supposed to stay confidential, but HIPAA is a law without a lot of teeth. It was exceptionally easy for last employer to get a list of insurance spend – by employee – from the insurance company. They were unethical in a lot of ways, so there’s a reason I left.

      1. NowProwl

        “HIPAA is a law without a lot of teeth”

        It has plenty of teeth, just that outside folks don’t see anything happening until something major does happen.

    3. Jeanne

      Not if you have a large self-insured company. Most large companies only contract with insurance companies to manage the plan. But they are self-insured meaning they pay the costs. Anyway, then your company’s benefits department gets reports on how much was spent by each employee and a breakdown of where. It does not necessarily state the diagnosis but what does it matter at that point?

      (I know this because my dad worked for a self-insured company and was in a position to know about the reports.)

  18. Iro

    #1 I guess I’m in the minority, but I like the wellness programs. It’s much better than being in the category of “you’re fat/a smoker therefore you pay more”. At least they are giving me the tools and support I need to stay healthy.

    I also am not sure how anyone thinks this is an invasion of privacy? It’s no different than the company you work for contracting nurses to provide a flu vaccine. Your employer doesn’t track who does and doesn’t “participate” in that program. Wellness programs are the same, contracted nurses happen to offer the service at your workplace, it does not mean your workplace stores the data. Your insurance has access to your personal health information, ever got an email reminder from your insurance that its time for a flu vaccine? So it’s really easy for the insurance companies to track who qualifies for discounts and doesn’t.

    I guess I just don’t see having these added benefits and services at work (access to dieticians, smoking cessation classes, support groups, free gym memberships) as a bad thing or in anyway an invasion of my privacy.

    1. Not So NewReader

      A wellness program at a previous employer, consisted of the company nurse examining what was in my lunch bag.

      1. Iro

        Well that’s a crappy program, but it doens’t mean all employers are doing that. I’m currently in a 10 week, free, voluntary (no attendance is taken), group class with a dietician. She comes to our workplace after work every Wednesday. That’s a spectacular benefit and part of an overall wellness culture here.

      2. Goldie

        Wow. So, to avoid being monitored, I’m guessing you’d have to eat out, i.e. eat less healthy food? Sounds logical to me. not

    2. Goldie

      It’s all fun and games when you’re generally healthy and none of their restrictions apply to you. It stops being fun as soon as they expand their list of conditions they try to “cure” and hit upon something you have, that you’ve got no or little control over. Everyone over a certain age has one, just due to natural wear and tear.

      Also, if I did need to join a support group for a health or mental condition, a group of coworkers would be my dead last choice. That really would be a massive invasion of privacy.

      My previous job had started getting heavily into the wellness programs; fortunately I left before I got caught, so to speak. They used to only screen for smokers, so I quit smoking and all was good for a while. Then they said they’d start going after weight, BMI, and blood test results. I would’ve gotten snagged on the last one, but I got out in time.

      1. Iro

        Um, I hit some of the restrictions and I still like these programs. Like I said, I’d much rather have a supportive environment to help me improve my health than just be told “Hey you! Yes you fattie! Expensive insurance stat!”

        Also, the group class I mentioned above is a voluntary benefit that I choose to participate in. The only mandatory program that you have to participate in to recieve the discount is to go to the gym 3X per week for 1/2 hour OR use a fitbit and achieve 10,000 steps a day at least 3X per week. These are both incredibly reasonable criteria for a steep discount to me, and again, you can always choose not to do this if you strongly feel it invades your privacy.

        If someone is willing to pay for a gym membership, offer me a $200 dollar a week health insurance discount, as well as a bevy of other voluntary benefits (such as dieticians, personal training group sessions, etc) and their only requirement is that I sign in to a gym for 1/2 hour 3X a week I think that is exceedingly reasonable and I do not personally feel that its a violation of my privacy.

        1. Goldie

          Is this your first year participating? At my old job, when they rolled that program out, they mentioned something about checking the numbers next year to make sure there has been improvement – lost weight, improved blood test results… Now that’s a bit scary. Granted, I didn’t stay there long enough to find out what would happen to an employee who participated and showed no improvement.

        2. Katie the Fed

          “go to the gym 3X per week for 1/2 hour OR use a fitbit and achieve 10,000 steps a day at least 3X per week”

          Those do seem quite reasonable.

          1. Cat

            There are a lot of reasons why it would be hard or impractical for an individual, though, even aside from the philosophical question of whether it’s okay to structure our society so that your access to healthcare is dependent on your behaviors.

            1. Katie the Fed

              Agreed on all. But I guess I was thinking if they HAVE to do something, this seems not terrible.

            1. Iro

              My company offers special arrangements on an individualized basis for those unable to meet the requirements.

              I mean this argument can be made for any work function. “I have to use a computer?!” but what if I’m blind????? Well in that case a specialized workstation is set up for you.

              I want to participate in the discount program but have extending circumstances? Well work with our wellness nurse to set up a practical program that meets your needs and satifies steps towards a health life.

              1. Helka

                Then why even have requirements in the first place? Why not say “As long as you’re working on a health plan approved by your doctor, you are good”? It isn’t just handicapped people vs everyone else — there are a broad diversity of desirable health goals, methods of achieving them, metrics to measure them, etc etc. And different people have different priorities. Slapping a one-size-fits-all program down and then saying “Well, if you’re the oddball who needs an exception, maybe we’ll accommodate you” is absurd.

                Arranging an accommodation for a central job duty is not even remotely comparable to handling personal health, by the way.

                1. Katie the Fed

                  ” Why not say “As long as you’re working on a health plan approved by your doctor, you are good”?”

                  Now that I like. I trust my doctor.

          2. Elysian

            Until I travel for work, or get sick or injured, or drop my FitBit in the toilet accidentally, or my kids get sick, or I have a really busy week, or I’m having trouble sleeping…. I’m a pretty active person – I have a personal trainer and I usually am at the gym 3x a week – but sometimes I’m not. And sometimes not being at the gym is healthier for me than actually going. What if I’m training for a triathlon? I have to add in extra workouts to prove that I’m active?

            I know that everyone has something they could improve on in life, but all these wellness plans seem to start out with the idea that they have to make you BETTER. I’m just fine. I’m as active as I want to be and anything else is going to be added stress (which will make me less healthy!!).

        3. Colette

          What happens if you get sick and can’t go to the gym for a week? Or you’re traveling and can’t make it to your gym?

          What happens if you have a fitness routine that works for your body and goals, but it doesn’t qualify (or is somewhere other than the approved gym)?

          What happens if you’re dealing with mental or physical illness, or a family situation that takes a lot of your time energy, or if you work a second job?

          I have no problem with the company offering benefits like a gym membership, but they shouldn’t be tied to discounts on health insurance.

          1. Iro

            Why not be tied to discounts?

            There’s flexibility built into my company’s program much like any workplace policy.

            1. Colette

              Because adding financial stress to someone who is already dealing with a lot of stuff is cruel?
              Because charging more to people with disabilities is illegal?
              Because statistics are not a guarantee, and the best option for an individual might differ significantly from the best option for the average person?

          2. aebhel

            This. A lot of high-impact exercise–sometimes even just walking–can be disastrous to people with certain conditions. A lot of fitness programs do not take this into account.

        4. KerryOwl

          Just a tip: you probably haven’t thought about this, but you might want to try not to start replies with “Um” or “Uh.” It tends to come across as dismissive and disrespectful. I’m sure you didn’t mean it (I didn’t realize it either until I had it pointed out to me) but just something to be mindful of in the future.

          1. Loose Seal

            For what it’s worth, I think the comment replied to deserved a little disrespect. Goldie was making an assumption about Iro’s health. That “um” eloquently said that Goldie has no idea about Iro’s health.

      2. Katie the Fed

        My other issue is with the diet advice – trends and science change in that world too. I gained a lot of weight in the 90s when a doctor suggested I go super low fat, and I felt like a dismal failure because it wasn’t working. When I found low carb worked well for me (before it was trendy) people told me I was going to die young of a heart attack from all that red meat. So I take diet advice with a grain of…um…Mrs. Dash, not salt.

        1. Iro

          The science hasn’t changed a whole lot on the subject, dieticians have supported a high fruit and veggie diet for decades. The problam of course is that just because someone is a Doctor doesn’t mean they know what someone should be eating. It’s a lot like any medical specialty, I wouldn’t want an orthopedic surgeon looking at an oddly shaped mole.

          These are actual dieticians, like the ones who would work with a heart attack patient at a hospital. Food needs of various individuals is their full time job. : )

    3. soitgoes

      It’s because there’s a lot of implied judgment in these wellness incentives, and it also asks for information about employees’ home lives. Sure, it’s going to be obvious at work if some people are regular smokers, but it’s really not my boss’ business if I have two cigarettes on a Saturday night outside a wine bar. I also don’t think those annoying company wight loss competitions ever occur in offices where the employees are generally thin. These initiatives only pop up when bosses think their employees are fat.

      1. Iro

        I don’t think its fair to sweep all wellness programs into a bucket like this. The benefits employers offer vary, and it’s true for wellness benefits as well.

        Your boss is the one tracking your cigarette use/bmi? It’s not a nurse contracted by your employer or your PCP?

        1. soitgoes

          I actually do think it’s fair so sweep all workplace wellness programs into that bucket. Health and habits are private, and when bosses pressure you to reveal information that you otherwise wouldn’t have talked about, it’s gross.

          1. esra

            Every yes to this. These wellness programs sound insane. I’ve worked at places where you get a free gym membership or whatever, but no one tracks it. It’s just a perk.

            It sounds crazy to me that a person’s workplace would have anything to do with all these tests and monitoring.

      2. KJR

        These office weight loss competitions drive me up a wall! It seems as if they are only encouraging yo-yo dieting, which is terrible for your body. In our office, the participants will be all-in to the point of starving themselves during the contest, and doing all sorts of unhealthy things in the interest of losing weight. Then, in between contests, they eat horribly and don’t exercise. What in is the point of that??? They are not put on by the company though, it’s just a group who gets together and puts money in for the winner.

        1. Goldie

          Well if they exercise, eat healthy, and keep their weight off after a contest, then how on earth are they going to win the next one? They’ll have no weight to lose, because they’ve lost it already and never gained it back! Ugh. Ours was company-sponsored. I never joined, and don’t know anyone who did, but we were all copied on their email updates anyway. It was strictly about losing weight and seeing who’d lose the most. Bizarre for all the reasons you’ve listed.

    4. Judy

      I just wish employers would walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. Specifically, we had a lunch and learn about our benefits last fall. They brought in pizza and cake and soda. If there is food at a meeting, it’s doughnuts. One manager 10 years ago did have a weekly meeting that lasted all morning, and would have fruit and (normal sized) bagels rather than doughnuts.

      1. Goldie

        So much this. It’s my pet peeve when you have to work late with no advance notice, and then, after you’ve spent 12 hours straight sitting at your desk, the pizza arrives as a thank-you for your hard work, as well as to ensure that you can put in a few more hours after you’ve filled up on the pizza! It’s like adding insult to injury.

    5. neverjaunty

      Yes, having to disclose my health history or personal medical conditions is really very different than being offered a free flu shot, or access to a dietitian.

    6. Nervous Accountant

      I would KILL for a free gym membership…in fact my company offers it, I’ve heard, but I’m seasonal so I’m not eligible for anything. :-(

    1. some1

      When I worked for the government, my benefits were so great that I used to go to Urgent Care because it cost more to lose the couple of hours of sick time than the co-pay I paid at Urgent Care.

      1. Katie the Fed

        That wasn’t government-run health care though. That was private health care offered through the government, like Blue Cross Blue Shield or something similar.

        Those plans aren’t the cadillac plans they once were, either, unfortunately.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Hey Sally, it seems like you have a political ax to grind here, which isn’t what this discussion is for, so I’m going to ask you to stop. Thank you.

    3. Miss Betty

      I love the VA. My husband is alive because of the VA. Yes, they’re overworked and understaffed, but they treat him even when we don’t have the co-pays. They’re kind and compassionate and always treat him well – something I can’t say for every private doctor I’ve ever seen. My dad worked for the VA as a social worker for 20 years and until the day he died, he always said he wished he could do more, he wished the VA could do more, for the men and women they serve. While there are bad employees everywhere, I’ve always been under the impression that most of the VA doctors, nurses, PAs, social workers, etc. feel the same way.

      We can’t put my husband on my insurance because it would take up the majority of my paycheck (he’s on disability, so this legal secretary with an income of less that $28,000/year supports us both – thank God for his SSD income or we wouldn’t be able to pay the rent). If it weren’t for the VA, I’d have been a widow before I was 50. I find that fact that I’m not, all because of government run healthcare, is outstanding.

  19. Iro

    #2 I’ve worked at company’s that have invited former team members to team holiday parties, so it’s not really that unusual to have someone on leave invited.

    I’m sorry you felt hurt by this and that you are not feeling accepted by the team, but I think you are projecting some of your “outsider” feelings onto the decision to invite this team member along.

    As for feeling like an ‘outsider’, unfortunately some people just don’t want to take the time to get to know “temporary” employees. I experienced this when I worked abroad for a year. I would say about half of the people I worked with flat out said “Hey, you’re nice and all, but you are not going to be here very long so I don’t want to get attached. Sorry, but don’t take it personally”.

  20. Cheesehead

    We never did a lot with incentives, but I don’t remember then being as privacy invasive as what I’ve read here!

    But years ago, I worked for a small company (15 people) at one point in time, and they were really giddy when they got a health plan. It didn’t affect me b/c I was on my husband’s plan, and it was not nearly as expensive as my company’s, and I would have had to switch to a whole new set of doctors to go with my company’s plan. So I declined. However, they gave me a very thorough medical questionnaire to fill out. Again, I explained I was declining the insurance, so no, I’m not filling out the questionnaire. THEN, they told me no, you HAVE to fill this out, because they need this filled out for all of the people in the office even if you’re declining; something about the company contract. I looked at this thing again, and it was DETAILED. I really did not want my medical information floating around out there at a company that had no use for it, which was not insuring me. I think there was someone else in my boat, and we were basically ordered to fill in something so they could fulfill their contract. I tried to fight it, but I was a newish employee and when you have the president standing over you, telling you to fill this out, what do you do? I think I made a big note on the forms that I did not give my permission for the information to be stored electronically or something like that, for all the good it probably did.

  21. Goldie

    #2: As someone who was asked not to come back from maternity leave “because we hired a replacement and laid people off and can no longer pay your salary”… (granted, this wasn’t in the US) I think that treating “Betty” as part of the team and inviting her to team functions is a VERY nice gesture. Like everyone said, I would not feel threatened just based on that – you were invited as well and from what I understand, your future full-time job offer does not depend on Betty leaving or staying?

    1. Katie the Fed

      “As someone who was asked not to come back from maternity leave ‘because we hired a replacement and laid people off and can no longer pay your salary'”

      That makes me feel Hulk levels of rage.

      1. Goldie

        Thanks. The baby in question has already graduated from college and has his own full-time job, we no longer live in the same country, so it’s all water under the bridge. But I will admit that my career took a big hit because of that. We lived in a small town where there weren’t many IT jobs. That same year, my former boss found a new position at a private company and tried to bring me in – they said no as soon as they heard my name. “We don’t hire women for developer positions, company policy”.

        We have it pretty good here in the US by comparison, I guess!

  22. Oryx

    For #2, to be fair, people get excited when “Betty” shows up because they know Betty. They’ve worked with her, she just had a baby, and they haven’t seen her in awhile. It’s natural to be excited when that co-worker makes a reappearance when you haven’t seen them and the OP is still new, they are still trying to feel her out and see where she fits in. Betty might be on leave but she’ll be returning to the company at some point, she’s still their co-worker.

  23. C Average

    Re: #2

    I used to be a lot more sensitive to perceived slights in the workplace, and I would’ve been right there with you feeling slighted by having a colleague who was out on leave show up for a work function and get treated like a long-lost friend while I continued to feel excluded from the camaraderie.

    A realization that helped me a lot was that reasonable adults almost never deliberately hurt one another’s feelings; if anything, they overcorrect to avoid EVER hurting one another’s feelings, using compliment sandwiches and careful scripts and other mechanisms to ensure that no one’s feelings ever get hurt. If I try to remember the last time I hurt someone’s feelings on purpose, it was probably Tanya Hayden, in high school, and I can feel my face burn at the memory. (Sorry, Tanya!) Everyone has a story like that. Virtually no reasonable adult of sound mind in a healthy environment sets out to hurt a colleague’s feelings.

    When you start to view the people around you as not malicious but just busy and oblivious, it takes the sting out of these small sources of hurt feelings and frames them as what they really are: other people going about their lives not thinking specifically of whether or how their actions affect you. And that makes them more approachable.

    So make some small talk, build some friendly relationships, bring cookies to work, invite someone promising-looking to join you for lunch, join in the group conversations. I’ll bet no one here is trying to exclude you; it just hasn’t occurred to them to specifically invite you, so you’re going to have to invite yourself.

    1. fposte

      “A realization that helped me a lot was that reasonable adults almost never deliberately hurt one another’s feelings.” That’s a good starting thought for a lot of situations. I think it can be tempting to read things adversarially sometimes, but you’re going to be wrong so much more than you’re going to be right.

    2. Jen RO

      I just… I don’t understand. Yes, I would feel sad that I was not included – but I would also tell myself the truth: that coworker on leave *is* a long-lost friend compared to me. A month in nothing. I only started fitting in at my old job after 4 months, and the people there were absolutely lovely!

      A close work-friend of mine is currently at home with her one-week-old baby. When she comes to the office will I be all over her to get the news? Hell yes I will! Will that mean that I don’t give a damn anymore about my other coworkers because I haven’t worked with them for the past 4 years? Absolutely not. Those two events are not related in any way.

    3. ThursdaysGeek

      This is so, so true! And based on that knowledge, I assure people that they can’t offend me. 99+% of the time they weren’t trying to offend, and in the rare case someone is trying to offend — they aren’t worth being bothered by.

  24. Jenny S.

    A reverse point of view for Letter Writer #2 – I was recently on maternity leave and I was very grateful to be invited to my department’s holiday party. It can be awful lonely to be at home with a baby all day. Seeing my coworkers again (and having the opportunity to show off my kiddo) was a morale booster for me. I understand how disappointing it must be to not connect with your new co-workers as easily as you have with past jobs, but I’m sure inviting the new mom was not meant as a slight on you, and it was probably a nice treat for her. Trust me, whether or not you have really connected with your cohorts, they are VERY glad to have you and the new mom is too!

  25. TotesMaGoats

    #2-If me showing up at work for visits with my newborn while on MAT leave hurt people’s feelings then I hurt a whole bunch of people a lot. I was horribly bored and losing my mind (almost literally) while at home. I loved being able to pop in and show off my kid and talk to adults. I’m sure someone could have been hurt by it but I’m not sure why they would have been. I’m pretty positive that person didn’t show up to hurt you.

    I would encourage you to really get to the root of why this bothered you so much. I think you know what and alluded to it but really think about it. Is there something you are doing that is making it hard to connect with people? Is there a chip on your shoulder that is telling people to stay away? I’m sorry you felt so hurt by this but the best advice comes from the sandbox, I think.

    Want to make friends and build relationships? Be friendly. Talk to people. Listen to people. And sometimes share your cookies.

  26. HR Manager

    #3 — Unfortunately, as an independent contractor — you are a vendor for the company, not an employee. There are no laws governing when you have to pay your vendors. They may have verbally given you a time frame to find payment, but there is nothing you can do if they don’t honor that. It does sound like the company comes through with the payment, but that it varies by week because of disorganization or tight resources.

  27. Chinook

    3. Late pay for independent contractors – as both an independent contractor and the one who sends other contractors’ invoices to A/P (including my own), I will give you the same advice I give others: count on your cheques being late, always have a reserve (which I know isn’t always possible but should be considered a cost of doing business), negotiate a reasonable late charge into your contract and levy it and, finally, invoice often so that the delay is over a smaller chunk of money.

    Unfortunately, this is the cost of being a vendor vs. an employee (and since I would love to be an employee but TPTB who control the staffing levels don’t want to see my position as a staff one, I know this isn’t always a choice). It goes right up there with a lack of benefits, PTO and job stability. It may be too late now for OP’s DH to renegotiate his contract, but when it comes for renewal, treat it like any business arrangement and make sure you are charging enough to cover the aggravation and inconvinience.

    Also, follow up with your contact (not just A/P who only know you as a piece of paper) if a payment is missed. In this case, the DH did it right because it is easy for a cheque to be forgotten on someone’s desk, someone to be off that day or there to be a typo that causes the payment to be triggered a year later (all of which I have seen happen here). Keep it professional and reasonable and you may even be able to get yourself on a person’s watch list to ensure that your invoice always goes through in a timely manner.

    1. Catherine in Canada

      THIS.
      I second all advice above.
      As a contractor with a single (large US-based company) client, I’m quite accustomed to their “Net 45” actually being more like “Net 90” and even “Net 120” when it’s end of fiscal year.
      Have a reserve fund AND an overdraft.

      1. Chinook

        “As a contractor with a single (large US-based company) client, I’m quite accustomed to their “Net 45″ actually being more like “Net 90″ and even “Net 120″ when it’s end of fiscal year.”

        I agree 100% but, if you are an IC, check to see if they have a Net 0 or Net 1 option for this type of business. I work for a large multinational based in the U.S. that holds onto every penny for as long as it can but, when it comes to ICs, we have the ability to make them Net 0 in the A/P system so that they are paid on the cheque run after they entered. The hitch is that the person entering them into the vendor system has to know they are ICs and specifically ask for it (and then someone should double check to make sure the right box is ticked in the system).

  28. HM in Atlanta

    #1 – Companies in the US only offer insurance because the want to attract and keep employees (same with 401k matches, vacation time, tuition reimbursement, etc.) They aren’t paying for insurance out of the goodness of their hearts. If companies were really invested in helping employees be healthier, they spend some time looking at how they ask employees to work, employee stress levels, workloads, amount of time sitting, amount of time they can sleep based on their work hours, etc. and address those issues as well as wellness initiatives. Instead, people get wellness discounts for an annual exam, biometric screening, and joining a gym, while they working 12 hour days, leaving at 10 pm, expected back at 6 am, and loaded down with work.

    #3 – I have to wonder if the person is really doing IC work versus employee work (especially with the company paying him directly vs through an agency), if he only works for that company.

    1. Chinook

      “#3 – I have to wonder if the person is really doing IC work versus employee work (especially with the company paying him directly vs through an agency), if he only works for that company.”

      I deal with daily and it is possible to be an IC for only one company (atleast in Canada, though my current vendor/employer is based out of the US). You still have to have control of your hours and workload and the company needs to allow you to work for other companies (so no exclusivity clause). It is most common among our engineers and consultants who could pick up work elsewhere if they wanted but don’t want to (because they like the stability of what they have and make enough to make themselves happy). We all started working through temp agencies or engineering firms and were encouraged, once the exlusivity/no poaching timeframe of their contracts ran out, to set ourselves up as ICs since those firms were not having to do any extra work (other than payroll admin) for their profit and we could then take that profit portion of the fee and use it to cover things like PTO, healthcare benefits (dentist, eye care, etc). as well as the liaibility insurance we need to have.

      Is there a fineline my vendor is toeing? You bet. But, as the IC, my risk is limited as long as I pay my payroll taxes and other expenses as an IC. If it turns out any of us should have been categorized as employees, we would get those taxes reimbursed by Revenue Canada and they would go after our vendor/employer (though INAL but did research this thoroughly before taking the plunge)

    2. Joey

      That sounds like an opportunity for you to make some work life balance recommendations that tie into wellness. Although you’d have a much easier time if you could show some stats that articulate how long workdays are leading to higher healthcare costs and lower productivity efficiency at your company.

      1. neverjaunty

        You’re kinda missing the point here, which is that these programs conveniently shift all the burden to the employee (exercise more!) without looking at whether there are steps the employer can take to improve employee wellness (employees need personal time so they can go to the gym!) – the latter seemingly a no-brainer given how many hours employees spend at work, and particularly obvious when you have the kind of work environment where people are expected to put in very long hours.

        1. Joey

          I’m not missing it, I’m saying if your company is serious about wellness they will be open to your argument and are apt to listen if you can show some data.

          If they’re not open to listening then feel free to call them on their bullshit.

          1. neverjaunty

            Sure. But, again, beside HM’s point, which is that companies are implementing programs that sound good but don’t actually require the employer to do anything it doesn’t already want to do – rather than picking programs that might actually be effective (e.g. allowing sufficient time for a full night’s sleep), but which would require a change in workplace culture and procedures.

            1. Joey

              Oh cmon, are you working like 18 hour days or something. This is a rabbit hole argument. Everybody has a life outside of work, everybody has a commute, everybody chooses how close or far their commute is, everybody has outside obligations and chooses how to prioritize them. Your company can’t control how big your obligations are outside of work.

              1. neverjaunty

                Joey, sometimes I get the sense that if somebody posted that the sky is blue, you’d be rushing in to comment “oh c’mon, sometimes if pollution is really bad in a city the sky can be yellow.”

                It’s not a rabbit-hole argument to observe that companies actually do have an impact on what you can and can’t do with your time outside of work, because your employer dictates how much work you have to do and when you have to do it. (And yes, there are plenty of industries where 60+ hour workweeks are the norm.)

                It’s not a rabbit-hole argument to also observe, as HM in Atlanta did, that these wellness programs seems to put all the burden on the employee, rather than looking at whether the business’ practices are contributing to ill health and should be changed.

                Saying “well maybe you should challenge that” is missing the point that these decisions are being made in the first place, and why.

                1. Joey

                  im not sure you understand the employers view. Most companies absorb at least some of the increase in costs and wellness programs are an attempt to minimize the increases that employees are at leAst partly responsible for. It’s like complaining that your insurance agent is telling you you can get a discount by taking a defensive drivers course.

                2. Joey

                  And you know what’s really weird is I have employees all the time who don’t want to release things out of “privacy concerns” that we already have, but require me to go look up. For example, I’ve had some employees that don’t want to give me their employee number because of “privacy”. And we’re not talking about an ss#. Same with home phone number. It’s mind boggling how many people freak out about giving out any personal info.

                3. neverjaunty

                  Yes, I understand the employers’ view. That’s exactly why I am skeptical of these “do all these unproven things to save us, er, you, money!” programs. I’m not sure what that has to do with your employees not wanting to give out their home phone numbers, but I guess we’re just having different conversations.

                4. Joey

                  The point is that even though they might be unproven the other options are much worse. I agree that many employers speak out of both sides of their mouths and I’m all on board for pointing out hypocrisies . But many absolutely do try to make real efforts and it’s those employees that I have a problem with. Those are the same ones that I see griping about trivial stuff like I noted above.

        2. Iro

          That’s one of the reason I like these wellness programs (at least the good ones) because it is getting employers to evaluate the healthiness of their work environment. I’ve worked at companies with no wellness options/discounts and they actually made it a goal to limit the amount employees moved. They called it “transportation waste!”

          On the other hand, I now work for a company with an optional wellness program to get a discount on your health insurance and we frequently go for walks as a team to help bump up each others step count for the day.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot

            “Transportation waste”? WOW.

            Did they also send out e-mails asking people to use fewer paper clips and Post-Its? Because that is some hardcore nickel-and-diming.

      2. HM in Atlanta

        I do understand the employer’s point of view. The point I’m making is that the employer doesn’t really have a stake in wellness. It has a stake in the cost of the benefits program, and companies that implement wellness programs get better deals from insurers (and there can sometimes be a side effect of people addressing unknown or unmaintained health issues). It’s not about wellness, it’s about cost.

  29. De Minimis

    We’re about to do our annual employee fitness challenge, and now I feel weird about participating….

    Still going to do it though, because you can win money! It’s ran sort of like a March Madness pool….they also have separate categories for weight/BMI change and also for miles of activity logged, so you could still win money if you exercise the most even if you don’t lose a bunch of weight.

    I won the whole thing a couple of years ago, it was awesome….

    1. soitgoes

      There’s no need to feel guilty about it. Do it if you think you have a chance of winning. An optional contest that runs for a limited amount of time isn’t the same thing as lifelong (or career-long) monitoring of private habits and information as a way of controlling how your earned salary is being allotted.

    2. Judy

      My current company is doing a biggest loser, and it’s actually pretty cool. The nurse is handling the weigh ins, and there are 5 top prizes, plus anyone who loses 7% of body weight over the 10 weeks gets a prize (I hear a $25 gift card). Each week there is a scoreboard based on “team names”.

      1. De Minimis

        Ours you get a small prize for sticking with it and logging your activities for the entire period [two months.]
        Then they have separate male and female categories for most miles logged, most BMI improvement [they do that instead of pounds lost] and then an overall winner. We don’t track anything over the course of the contest. This is the third year we’ve done it…last year participation was lighter but I think we may have more this year, especially if the winter continues to be relatively mild.

  30. LawBee

    With the exception of the *Canadian-American Eternal Health Care Debate, I’ve found this whole wellness program conversation fascinating. I’m incredibly lucky in that my firm pays 100% of my benefits and 90% of my HSA, and does not have a wellness program or require any kind of reporting from us. In previous years and lives, I’ve had the crappy insurance that paid for nothing, the no insurance for years because of unemployment, the decent insurance that covered most things but cost me a ton each month.

    * It never goes away, it’s a pointless argument, and it’s always so so defensive on both sides. We each have what we have, neither program is perfect, let’s move on.

  31. Nanc

    OP2, like other commenters I’m struck by your statement that you feel lonely at work. I expect that’s part of the reason you feel . . . vulnerable, perhaps? when Betty is visiting or someone mentions her. If you’re not already doing it, maybe you could email Betty an update on how things are going every week or so (check in with your supervisor–they may already be doing it and maybe you could add a note to their update). If there has been anything new added to the job or procedures have changed you might ask how she’d like those documented–update an existing SOP or create one– so she’s on top of it when she returns. If there’s something that she’s done that has made it easy for you to step in, compliment her! Try to put yourself in her place and think about what you would like someone covering for you to do. You’re going to continue to be part of this company when she returns and it’s a great time to figure out a way to be part an essential part of this team so you have their support when you move into the new position. It might be worth having a conversation with your supervisor, even if they say you’re doing great work. Ask them what else you can do to make sure the position is being covered as it should and what you can do to help get Betty up to speed when she returns.

    A month in isn’t all that long and you’re still figuring out the office dynamics. The fact that you reached out and asked about this is a good sign–you want to find a way to make it work and fit it. Good luck–we’re pullin’ for ya! (as Red Green would say.)

  32. DrPepper Addict

    #1 I am experiencing the same thing at my new job (been here 3 months). The hoops they require you to jump through in order to get a discount on insurance are ridiculous. We have to earn “health points” and must reach a certain level to get a discount for next year’s plan. For instance, you get 10 health points for working out (at a previously approved gym), but you can go online and take a quiz and get 400 points. Like that makes any sense. It’s all bass-ackwards and I hope it does not become a trend nationwide.

    The thing I keep coming back to is how intrusive it is and how it does discriminate against people who smoke (at my company you have to have a blood test every year to prove you don’t smoke) and those who are overweight. Here, smokers pay the highest premiums. If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy working out or exercising you pay a higher rate. I shouldn’t have to go work out if I don’t want to (even though I do), regardless of the health benefits. It seems like overweight people and smokers are one of the few groups in the country you can still discriminate against.

    1. Iro

      On the flip side, as a smoker/obese individual with higher healthcare costs is it really fair that every employee has to pay more for a “group premium” because of your lifestyle choices? Isn’t that discriminating against them?

      I think it’s perfectly fine for a company to say, hey if you choose to live that lifestyle fine, but for those who don’t here’s a break from covering all that extra health care costs. Oh, and if you are currently in that lifestyle, but you want to change, we’ll go ahead and give you the tools to change as well as the discount if you adhere to our program.

      Perfectly reasonable to me. And as an FYI I’m Obese. As in I have over 100 pounds to lose before my BMI is healthy.

      1. Kelly L.

        The way I see it, in any insurance pool there’s the possibility that one might end up paying for the costs of somebody else–that’s how it works–and all of these somebodies are ordinary, flawed human beings who might have bad habits or bad luck. It’s just the breaks, kwim? And there are lifestyle choices that are also dangerous but that don’t get the same amount of heat, because they’re less visible or considered more aesthetically pleasing. Sure, the obese person and the smoker might bring up your insurance costs. So might the tanning enthusiast, the diet-pill addict, the opiate addict, the terrible driver, the mountain climber, or the person who isn’t doing anything “wrong” but just gets hit by a car one day or gets cancer. It’s just…life.

  33. Callie30

    # 1 – America has serious health issues – from obesity to heart disease, etc. Many people need an incentive to become healthy, unfortunately – It’s sad to know that over 2% of our kids are overweight or obese. I’ve believed for a long time that society/individuals would greatly benefit from programs like this. And I agree with Allison – It’s more of an incentive for those who do it rather than a penalty for those who don’t. It’s a choice and we shouldn’t condemn something that adds an incentive for increasing health in our society.

    If people choose not to partake, that’s fine and it’s their right. But any extra encouragement – whether it’s initially monetary or not – is needed in the US.

    1. neverjaunty

      Is there any evidence that these workplace programs actually “increase health in our society”?

      1. Callie30

        I’m not sure and I don’t know if they have been happening long enough or in enough settings to tell yet, but it can’t hurt and if people aren’t being FORCED to comply and it’s a choice in their workplace, then what’s the issue? If they don’t partake, they likely pay the same/similar amount as they already are and if they choose to participate, they have a financial incentive. And many may already be living a more healthful lifestyle.

        And if it’s a points system, then they could hopefully choose what activities they would want to partake in.

        Let’s move to a metaphor for a minute – using car insurance – certain age groups and genders have higher/lower base rates. Young males have higher cost car insurance, for example – based on statistics of driver safety and incidents. Students who have good grades get a discount and people with AAA often get a discount. etc. These individuals live a lifestyle that allows them to get discounts on their insurance. If people drive recklessly and get tickets/violations (perhaps liken this to people not taking care of themselves), then their rates go up (as they rightly should).

        I realize car insurance is a different situation, but we are still talking about insurance, based on math and statistics – people who don’t take care of themselves are at a HIGHER risk of medical issues, statistically – Obesity, diabetes, heart issues, being main issues in he US. I just don’t see an issue with people who are living healthy lifestyles to partake in insurance incentives, especially if it’s voluntary.

        1. fposte

          Of course it can hurt. Anything that’s capable of change can hurt.

          I think it’s possible that they’re helpful–I’m not insisting that they don’t do anything. But it is very common and very human to spend a lot of time, effort, and money to set up a well-meaning initiative that actually has no measurable impact. And that’s a lot of resources misspent even before you consider the negative impacts it might have.

          1. neverjaunty

            Exactly. And it can also hurt when time, energy and attention are being taken away from solutions that actually could work, and wasted on feel-good things that don’t work because “it can’t hurt to try”.

            Particularly when, as noted upthread, those “can’t hurt” solutions put all the burden on the employee, and carefully avoid looking at whether the work environment itself should changes. Cut back on mandatory hours? Why, that might hurt our bottom line! Let’s encourage everybody to get their blood pressure checked instead.

            1. Callie30

              Ok – Respectfully, we are straying from the point here – The point I am trying to make is that IT’S A CHOICE and we are all adults here. If someone can’t cope with pressure etc. or if feel insecure about these programs then that’s not on the fault of the employer – those of us who live healthy lifestyles or who are working toward it are gaining just as we do with other types of insurance – Those who choose not to partake have that choice too. – And the employee needs to take some responsibility for their own health and mindset – the employee (and everyone in general) should take a hard look at themselves or decide against it and move on. And many people are likely already taking many of these actions already, and not just for the incentives.

              if it’s not a choice in the workplace to participate, that’s a different issue.

              It’s not about just feel good measures here – we are talking about health insurance and if you use the reasoning above, we could be debating the same thing about the incentives for homeowner’s (ie incentives for thing like insulation and solar) and auto insurance (good student, AAA, driving the speed limit/safely). We are taking the inevitable step forward of following in the footsteps of how insurance works – It’s been a long time coming to have incentives for being healthy with health insurance – whether it’s going to the gym, buying exercise equipment for one’s home, etc.

              Any move we can make as a society to promote being healthy is a good thing. And often we don’t know solutions work unless they are put to the test.

              1. neverjaunty

                Good grief. No, we aren’t straying from the point – if ‘wellness initiatives’ are useless and don’t work, then they’re a waste of everybody’s time and money (and are DETRIMENTAL to employees improving their health) regardless of whether they’re voluntary or just fake-voluntary.

                And it’s equally silly to argue that we should just go ahead and implement programs willy-nilly and see if they work or not; we already have quite a bit of research on things that improve health. For example, we know that lack of sleep and sitting all day hurt people. Shouldn’t an employer start off with making sure it isn’t scheduling shifts or hours that make it impossible for an employee to get sleep? And to make sure that employees have the ability to get up and take walks during the work day?

                Also, wow: “those of us who live healthy lifestyles or who are working toward it”? Is some judgmental nonsense.

                1. Kelly L.

                  This. It seems parallel to the argument that erupts on the tubes anytime there’s a study that shows that, for the vast majority of people*, being nagged about their weight does not lead to weight loss. And people chime in with “But how will they ever lose weight without being nagged?” And it’s like “We just said that doesn’t actually work for most people, so even if the weight loss is a desirable outcome, this is not a way to achieve it.” And then “But how will they ever lose…” And one ends up feeling like one has beaten one’s head against a wall.

                  The being able to get up and walk around is huge. I’ve known people, for example, who got flak for walking across the office, let alone any further. That’s “wasting company time” and “inefficient.”

                  *Yes, there are some exceptions, just like with anything else.

                2. Callie30

                  Please be civil. Your response is rude, strays from appropriate discussion language, and seems very closed-minded.

                  How do we know that wellness initiatives are useless? We don’t. And it may depend on the parameters of the Program, as well. And I never said anything about implementing programs in an ad hoc, disorganized manner – so you are making assumptions that are not correct about what I’ve said.

                  As for being judgmental – No, just stating facts and we are talking about insurance here. Would you say the same thing about drivers who don’t get tickets and follow the rules of the road vs. people that choose to speed/rive recklessly/drive while intoxicated and get tickets (or worse) that increase their rates? Because safer driving equals lower insurance rates. Is that judgmental too? No, it’s simply the facts of how INSURANCE usually works.

  34. terrified by these discussions

    I spent a few minutes weighing whether or not I should say anything here …
    I’m in Canada, so working under a different regime than is mostly discussed.
    I’m also a person who has been assaulted by a physician in a clinical setting.
    I am not comfortable participating in medical exams or procedures which do not feel necessary to me, and I am not comfortable explaining my reasoning to whichever HR person decides it’s their business. If I were presented with one of these incentive plans I would immediately start looking for another job. (Yes this is a minority viewpoint but it’s also a real person’s experience.)

    1. Jeanne

      I’m sorry to hear that. But you are right that you shouldn’t have to explain that to a stranger. The problem is you probably wouldn’t know about these kind of requirements until you start the job. Although seeing how prevalent it is, we should all learn to ask if we care.

  35. C Average

    This whole discussion about wellness programs is very interesting to me, and I’d like to tease out a particular strand and explore it just a bit further.

    A lot of you have dismissed workplace incentives to do things most people agree are healthful things (stop smoking, adopt a more nutritious diet, work out x times per week, walk x steps per day, join and/or visit a gym, monitor weight, monitor other fitness data, get screened for certain conditions) as gimmicky and not very effective or motivational. There are ample statistics that bear out this belief.

    I have a strong personal interest in this aspect of the discussion, as one of the products my team supports is a popular wearable device that’s had, alas, a very high abandon rate (as is true of pretty much all wearable devices). I’ve thought a lot about how and why people make permanent changes in their habits that lead to better health outcomes. I read everything I can about effective and ineffective motivators.

    I’ve never been unfit myself, but when I started running and, as a result, started paying more attention to my health and well-being (because I wanted to run further and faster), it changed my life. I’ve always wished I could identify and bottle that motivation. I think that workplace wellness programs tend to be run by people like me: the converts, the evangelists. And devices like the one my company makes are popular with wellness programs because, hey, here’s a new gadget that can help you succeed in our program! What could possibly go wrong? It sounds great, but these programs rarely work, and these devices rarely inspire their users to make lasting change.

    For those of you who, like me, made a major change in your lifestyle that led to permanent improvement in your health, what actually got you to do it? Do you think there’s any workplace wellness program that could possibly provide that kind of jolt to people who would benefit from it?

    1. Colette

      I think there are a lot of reason why people don’t exercise. (I’m going to focus on that specific aspect of your question.)

      First of all, the entire exercise industry is focused on losing weight. (Not necessarily every individual person, but if you join a gym, that’s what they talk about.) There are lots of benefits of exercise that have nothing to do with the number on the scale, and lots of reasons why exercise won’t make a long-term difference in your weight. Personally, I don’t care about losing weight – I exercise because it makes me feel strong – so any talk about that is just not interesting or motivating.

      Also, as we’ve discussed here already today, people spend a lot of time going to/from work, working, and taking care of general life, so any plan to get people to exercise more has to work within the boundaries people have. That might mean gyms at work (and time to use them), personal fitness plans that people can do at home, or standing desks or something entirely different.

      And then it should be reinforced at work – order in healthy food instead of pizza for that lunch meeting, or subsidize transit passes instead of parking, or support optional walking clubs or whatever.

      1. Bunny

        Your comment gave me more thoughts!

        So, I have kind of a complicated and messy history with dieting, weight and health. I think a LOT of people do, as far as I can tell. For me, part of my journey to get away from self-harm, from intentionally starving myself and from damaging my mental health and emotional well-being involved rejecting entirely the idea that I need to be a certain size or a certain weight.

        That hasn’t stopped me exercising. Actually I exercise more now than I ever have before. I engage in activities that I genuinely enjoy, because of the measurable benefits they have for my flexibility, strength, joint health, and overall quality of life. And I fit those activities into my life in sustainable ways, don’t beat myself up if I have a period where I can’t do as much as normal, and actively seek out new fun ways to move my body.

        But if I was engaged in a workplace wellness program, guaranteed the very first thing they would focus on would be trying to make me lose weight. And I know from experience that this sort of approach is detrimental to my health. For one thing, doing exercise because I *have* to sucks the enjoyment out of it, and tends to lead me to feel pressured to avoid exercises that aren’t sufficiently high-impact or that could make me “bulk up”, even though I find them enjoyable. For another thing, suddenly having something I enjoy turned into a target-driven exercise – with targets that are only tangentially related to what I’m doing – would just be an exercise in frustration, feelings of inadequacy and exactly the sort of mental and emotional roller-coaster I’ve worked so hard to avoid.

        I’ve spoken to enough people who feel the same way as me to know I’m no special snowflake in this. And people like me are exactly the sort of people that get targeted by these sort of programs.

    2. Bunny

      One big problem is that these wellness programs always come with targets, which may be either beneficial or HARMFUL to the person expected to meet them. These targets are not being issues by medical professionals with a full understanding of the health needs of the individual or an eye to realism for them, but by a mixture of decent, well-meaning non-medical-experts such as yourself and, unfortunately, penny-pinchers looking to save money and not really caring to look beyond that.

      Taking weight-based targets as an example – while some weight changes will occur with changes in lifestyle, that doesn’t mean it’s reasonable or realistic to demand that a 300lb person transform themselves rapidly into a 120lb person. Rather, most medically-guided programs look at a 5-10% change in weight or, in the case of HAES approaches, ignore weight in favour of sustainable changes in lifestyle. A person who alters their diet to match their dietary needs more closely, increases their exercise levels, quits smoking (if they smoked before) and monitors their alcohol consumption will experience measurable health benefits from those changes regardless of whether they lose 200lb or 20lb or nothing at all, and such changes are more sustainable of the individual is able to make them at their own pace, in accordance with their own needs, and to a stopping point that makes sense for them. But workplace schemes typically do not work that way. And someone who is in genuinely very poor health and has a lot of things to work on can end up being given a target that is overwhelming to them.

      That, and people with disabilities and existing health conditions – who already struggle the most when it comes to getting affordable insurance and have the greatest need for it – may be unable to do what the schemes ask of them. For example – “simple” advice like “eat at least 5 fruit and veg per day” would literally kill my gran. She loved veggies and salads, but developed a bowel condition a decade ago which means she is completely incapable ofprocessing any fibre – last time she tried eating some roasted vegetables that hadn’t been carefully peeled and sieved, she was put in hospital for two weeks. Instead, she’s on a medically-enforced high-carb and high-fat diet.

    3. Jen RO

      The way I see it… there’s no way to talk people into getting healthier. In short – it’s hard. It takes physical effort, it takes time, it’s not fun, and I’m lazy. I doubt there is any incentive an employer could offer me to drag my ass to the gym.

      1. Jen RO

        (I’m just talking about exercise here. If my company decided to, say, bring a big-ass fruit bowl tomorrow I would probably cut back on junk food. Or if they bought peeled carrots. Are they a thing in the US? I had the most amazing little sphere-shaped carrots in Amsterdam and there is no such thing here. I am very lazy, yes.)

    4. neverjaunty

      “Jolts” don’t create sustainable lifestyle changes, I don’t think.

      From just the workplace POV, I suspect it’s whether the workplace culture is healthy and enables and supports positive changes. Does the break room have healthy snacks, or it is vending machines full of crap and the occasional box of doughnuts? Is the area safe for a lunchtime jog, and is there a place other than a cramped bathroom stall for an employee to clean up and change after exercising? Does the work environment mean employees have to be on their feet for long periods, or are there opportunities to rest, take breaks and actually eat a normal meal instead of gulping down food for ten minutes before rushing back out to the job?

      1. Goldie

        “and is there a place other than a cramped bathroom stall for an employee to clean up and change after exercising?”

        Excellent point. One of my old jobs had a locker room with a shower. Made all the difference. You could go for a run at lunch and not worry that you’ll stink up the office in the afternoon.

    5. Goldie

      While I admit I don’t exercise much right now in the middle of the winter, I love the outdoors, LOVE to hike, and enjoy an occasional trail run/jog. However to me, one of the main purposes of all my outdoor exercise is to rewind after work, FORGET about work, and shift into the after-work/weekend mindset. Doing these things for work, because my employer requires me to, or heaven forbid, doing them with a group of coworkers, will take all the fun out of exercising and frankly might make me abandon exercise altogether. It will just seem like more work instead of R&R. So, sorry, I’m not much help. I’m just of the mindset where I like to walk out of the office and leave the work behind.

      One thing that would work for me though, would be if the employer encouraged exercise breaks during the work day. I’d be all over that. Right now, I can’t help feeling bad if I sneak out for a 15 minute walk around the office park – makes me feel like I’m slacking off while all my teammates are sitting at their desks working hard. And I also think this kind of work wellness program (one that encourages people to exercise throughout their work day) actually could possibly provide the jolt you’re talking about.

    6. ExceptionToTheRule

      I think a lot of it is that the things these wellness programs tend to target are very, very personal parts of our lives. Personally, I’ve had a lot of therapy to understand who I am and why I am that way and that includes issues with diet & exercise. Those struggles are something I’m willing to share and work on with my actual personal doctor, but something I have no interest in bringing into the workplace. You can’t always choose who you work with and sharing those types of very personal parts of ourselves isn’t something we always want to do with co-workers.

      Work eats up enough of my life, the stress it causes is directly related to two chronic health issues I have. The idea of having to be answerable about my personal life to my employer is just plain icky and it’s a slippery slope from answering a health questionnaire online to some of the more intrusive examples given by people today.

    7. Jean

      “For those of you who, like me, made a major change in your lifestyle that led to permanent improvement in your health, what actually got you to do it?”

      Interesting question! Thanks for really making me think (and revise my words before hitting “submit.”) Maintaining physical and mental health can be complicated. Many of us find it really difficult to increase our physical activity level and/or modify our food intake (type of food / frequency / portion size).

      **Too long to read/shorter summary:
      Sometimes I think the difficulty of forming and keeping healthy habits is directly proportional to the amount of other drama, disruption, and distraction in one’s life. What if I’m dealing with a long, discouraging job search, or some other ongoing or exploding crisis in my own life, in the life of a close relative or friend, or in the life of someone with whom I don’t want to be close, but around whom I haven’t yet learned how to practice self-protection? (Recent example: see the Sunday open thread discussion about the commenter whose mom refused to accept that she was not going to become a hotshot lawyer. The Yiddish word for this sort of stomach-acid-churning aggravation is “tzuris.” I’d be interested in hearing other people’s synonyms.)

      Some very strong-minded people get one jolt and immediately decide to make changes, and don’t let anything deter them. But not everybody is capable of this, or at least not immediately.

      **Details/long version:
      There are considerations beyond the at-a-first-glance presence or absence of physical, emotional, economic, and logistical supports for or barriers to of caring for one’s health. Did one’s family of origin value being physically activity for the sake of being healthy, or were sports disparaged as an unworthy pastime, or people were discouraged from being active unless they met certain athletic standards? Did a person learn to balance dietary pleasure and nutrition, or did eating become a way of handling stress? If a person has picked up unhealthy habits (smoking, drinking to excess, overeating sweets or other nutritionally less-than-helpful items) it can be very hard to end the relationship with cigarettes, beer, cookies, potato chips, or whatever.

      I think it’s so difficult to change habits of eating X (or not eating Y) and exercising (or not exercising) because it means managing simultaneously many large and small changes in logistics, home routines, and personal attitude. Examples: How do I spend 45 minutes waiting for a family member to finish a weekly medical appointment: sit and read a boring magazine or walk briskly around the neighborhood? How do I reorganize my weekend grocery-shopping to consistently get a week-long supply of cottage cheese or Greek yogurt + fruits and veggies to pack for lunch (instead of buying a fast-food lunch Thursday and Friday because the home cottage cheese ran out on Wednesday)? How do I relieve my anxiety when XYZ usual-anxiety-causing-event occurs, besides chomping on high-fat but totally delicious chocolate chip cookies? How do I accept that at age 50-something I can’t eat as many cookies that I did at age 20-something without gaining a lot of weight quickly, and losing it slowly?

      And now AAM readers everywhere know one of my secrets: I find it almost impossible to resist a home-baked chocolate chip cookie! ;-) Fortunately I really, truly, honestly also enjoy snacking on cooked vegetables. Yum, yum, cabbage and string beans! :-) (Wouldn’t it be nice if just by eating string beans we could calm down about the HR people who never acknowledge our applications, or the coworkers who come to work sick and infectious, or the bosses who demand we share hotel rooms with strangers at conferences?)

    8. AnonThisOnce

      As a person who’s not dangerously unhealthy but not exactly at the top of my fitness game, I think one of the things that I struggle with in terms of wellness programs is that I’m not a convert or evangelist like the people running them :-).

      Personally, I don’t enjoy exercise (there’s a part of me that walks into the gym and still feels like I’m in gym class getting harassed by the teacher for bombing the mile run), and I struggle to understand how my coworkers can find a small salad both filling and enjoyable. I have tried making a concerted effort to cut my calorie intake, and I have tried skipping the carbs I enjoy at lunch in favor of salads, or nuts, or whatever, but usually I just end up feeling cranky. I am completely embarrassed by all of this, of course (although I’m not seriously overweight — yet), and I wish I knew how to enjoy this stuff rather than it feeling like punishment. I really admire people like you who have made those changes in their lives and have become positive role models for fitness. But then I try to join a wellness program at work, and find myself surrounded by people (more of my coworkers than not) who happily skip lunch to work out every single day, grab the salad before the chocolate brownies, and often unintentionally criticize my lifestyle (they consider me a reasonable person, so they assume I must be as healthy as they are!). This usually results in me feeling ashamed and uncomfortable participating, in case my health sins become known and make me look bad.

      With that being said: one of the best things you can do is be understanding. Despite everything I’ve just said, I continue to participate in wellness programs at work, and the reason is primarily the woman who coordinates them. She offers many programs that can be done privately and at my own pace (ex – set goals, let’s talk if you want, and let’s weigh-in once a week on your lunch) – and while she is encouraging and sometimes even pushes me a little, there’s no shame if I gain some weight, don’t make as many steps as I’d like, or don’t want to join the exercise class. When I did finally sign up for her class (which unfortunately lasted only 3 weeks before I had an injury that killed my mobility for awhile), at first I was so uncomfortable, because I was clearly the only person in the room who had NEVER taken an exercise class before, and I was uncoordinated and awful, but she made a point of making it clear to me that that was okay and looking for ways I improved week to week.

      So many ‘exercise evangelists’ I have met are so excited and enthusiastic that they present things as ‘easy’ or obvious that, well, don’t feel that way to me. You can make such a huge difference by creating a welcoming environment for folks who are still trying to get over that ‘gee I should really start exercising someday’ hump!

    9. Elsajeni

      At the most basic level, I think making a major change like that is something that a person has to decide for themselves to do — I don’t think you can incentivize someone into it unless they already wanted to do it. What you can do is provide opportunities for them to make that decision, and remove obstacles that could prevent them from making it in the first place, or from following through once they’ve made it; then, if you want to incentivize people meeting some kind of health goal, ask them to set their own goal (and have a doctor sign off on it, maybe) and incentivize that.

  36. Bunny

    re: 2, it really isn’t unusual at all for people on leave to be invited to events. If anything, it’s been the norm at most places I’ve worked. Keep in mind that someone on maternity leave has not quit – they are still employed by the company (albeit they may not be receiving maternity pay depending on circumstance). They are going to be coming back in time, and already have existing relationships with the people working there. It makes sense for such people to be invited to attend work events.

    Generally, any major functions run by businesses I’ve worked in have had a few extra guests – people on both maternity and medical leave for sure, but also often some of the retirees. Loads of places I worked at have had a little table-of-honour crowded with people in their 70s who left years ago, but who are invited back to events in recognition of the many years they contributed to the company.

  37. Mike C.

    So speaking to the uselessness of these “wellness programs”, my coworker next to me is on a call with his “coach”, and he’s been told to take green coffee supplements. The same kind that the FTC sued and banned a major company from producing and selling because it’s snake oil.

    What the hell is this crap?!

    1. Kelly L.

      + a million. There will always be major issues with these programs as long as “health” is tied more to fashion than science.

  38. EvilQueenRegina

    There have been times when I’ve temped and people have made comments about “It’s not the same without Philomena” where Philomena is the person I’m covering for, but I’ve always told myself not to take it personally. They’ve worked with Philomena for some time and built up friendships with her, it’s only natural that they miss her and it isn’t a reflection on me.

    I’ve also been in the other position – in my last job I was one of the admin for a team of social workers and the social workers still invite me to events like leaving parties. Initially, when I’d go to the events and realise that none of the new admin were present, I’d feel awkward and wonder if I should still be going when they’re not given that they’re the ones who work with them now. But I do know that there have been times when they have been invited and for whatever reason have decided not to go, which is nothing to do with me, so I try not to feel bad about it.Just keep in mind that Betty may have felt awkward too.

  39. ella

    On #3, I’m wondering if the person who informed him about the turnaround time for checks was just plain wrong. Currently, the place I work ends its pay period on a Friday, but pay day isn’t until the Friday after that, because it takes time to calculate hours/pay/benefits deductions and cut checks for 600 people. Every place I’ve worked has had some variation on this. To end a pay period on a Saturday and then to cut checks on Monday morning seems improbably fast. It sounds like the payroll admin is working under some near-impossible time constraints.

  40. RE #2 - Reapplying

    There is a company that I’d LOVE to work for. I’ve applied a before to roles that I felt fit my background and the company just posted a role that is, on paper, a mirror image of my current job. I thought I’d try my luck at finding, via LinkedIn, an actual person in HR vs the generic HR email on their site that I never hear back from :) I found someone who hires in the department to which I’m applying and emailed them. Got a 6 month out of office notice! So I emailed a different contact I found and received another long term out of office reply but this one had a “while I’m out” contact. So I resent my materials to this last person with success. Then this morning I get a separate email from each person I emailed saying they’ve each received my resume and have forwarded to the general HR email. Ack! Lesson learned for trying to work around the rules!! But my question for any HR people reading is: did I just shoot myself in the foot here? Will I be tossed in the “no” pile because I’m overzealous or will my accidental multiple submissions show a clear interest in the role and the company?

  41. ECH

    Re: Reapplying – A little bit of a tangent, but I recently saw a classified help wanted ad that stated “Previous applicants need not apply.”

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