Wednesday, February 15, 2012

State of Oregon Ahead of the Curve on Penalizing Poorest Workers

The State of Oregon is among the 10% of employers who penalize their poorest workers.
"The Public Employees' Benefit Board put itself ahead of the curve — but not too far ahead — when it decided to penalize state workers who don't participate in its new wellness program, experts say."
. . .
"PEBB's wellness program, called the Health Engagement Model, has been a source of controversy since Oregon workers first learned of its adoption. Most objections have revolved around the $20 to $35 monthly penalty assessed against people who decline to participate in the HEM."
Well, who could PEBB be targeting? What class of people tend to smoke more, drink more and eat fast food more? One might call them, using old terminology, the "undeserving" lower class. And the PEBB society builders want to tell them how to live.

The real issue is not health costs. Even people who live "healthy" get diabetes, heart disease and cancer since there are hereditary factors that play significant roles in those diseases. Same with stroke and Alzheimer's. Actually, stroke has racial, age, gender, even (surprise!) socioeconomic factors as well.

We are told that 20% of people account for 80% of health care costs.
"'Statistics show that 20 percent of the population are the ones accounting for approximately 80 percent of health care costs," [Rose Stanley, a consultant with WorldatWork] said. 'It's that 20 percent they're trying to get to, but employers can't force you to go and get your screenings done, so they have turned to incentives or penalties.'"
But 30% of that 80% of costs is apparently due to end-of-life care. Since everyone dies, end-of-life care is spendy whether you lived healthy or not. Maybe more so if you lived healthy and die of a years long decline body part by body part or the need for constant daily care and declining physical health that shadow Alzheimer's or dementia.

The real issue here is not unhealthy lifestyle and significant lowering of health costs, the real issue is control. The PEBB has chosen the stick approach to force employees to follow state rules not only at work but 24/7. Since the employer as feudal lord works best with people who are at the lower end of societal power, PEBB is betting on financial penalties over rewards.



Ten Mile Island said...

Don't know whether to laugh or cry.

MAX Redline said...

Absolutely correct, T.D. - it's all about control. And to update:|newswell|text|Home|s

A class action suit has been filed. It's unsurprising, since one of the defendants, DAS Director and state Chief Operating Officer Michael Jordan, headed up Metro before bailing from that job to take the state positions. Jordan is a well-known and long-established control freak who has long believed in the glories of Central Planning.

As you note, many illnesses are unrelated to factors such as smoking, eating fast foods, consumption of alcohol, etc. My Bride, for example, was recently denied health coverage by ODS due to asthma. The fact that it's easily controlled with inhalers, and the fact that she doesn't smoke, and the fact that she exercises daily were irrelevant in their determination.

The employees, the latest victims of Jordan's efforts to exert control, would be penalized monthly on top of the health care premiums they already pay - and they would be penalized not for smoking, drinking, eating fast food, failure to ride bikes, failure to take mass transit, or whatever other behaviors Jordan wishes to control - they would be hit with the penalty simply for failing to agree to participate in the intrusive "wellness program" that Jordan and his cronies have decided is "best".

Good post - as usual!

T. D. said...

TMI, too true. State and local government employees get lots of perks, this isn't one of them.
Neither is this (showing on their site):
"PEBB was recently instructed by the Oregon Department of Justice that email addresses in members' benefit records are considered to be public record. The question arose when Rep. Dennis Richardson requested under public records law that PEBB provide all lists of email addresses it maintains. Your protected health information is private and secure and can't be shared."

Though they do have a fix for those quick enough to catch it:
"Can I delete my personal email address from my record?
Yes. You can delete your personal email address from your benefit record at any time.

1. Log in at and select “Update my personal information.”
2. Delete information in the Personal Email fields and check “No Personal Email.”
3. Click “Save and Continue” – the blue button.
4. Log out."

Moral of the story: never give a speck more of information to anyone, especially any government agency, than you have to.

Long live snail mail!

T. D. said...

Max, I didn't remember about Michael Jordan. As usual, you know more about the back story than I do. Thanks for adding this information!

T. D. said...

Max, also good point about being penalized for not joining the program rather than changing lifestyle. Though that will probably come next if you can't show positive movement in your health stats and are doing things they don't like.

James Nicholas said...

"The real issue here is not unhealthy lifestyle and significant lowering of health costs, the real issue is control."

Indeed it is, and those that would deign to exercise such authority must be called out. The fact that it is for "their own good" is irrelevant. The threat we face is not to our health, it is to our freedom. Freedom must be defended first.

Another excellent post, Ace!

T. D. said...

As you say, freedom is the issue. Those who can tell us what is best for us can use any criteria they want including what's best for them. Thanks for commenting, JN.