Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Oregon PEBB Now Paying Those Who Play

Dennis Thompson, Jr., reports that the Oregon Public Employees' Benefit Board (PEBB) has decided to pay participants in its Health Engagement Model rather than fine non-participants. It will only cost an extra $12.6 million if current participants continue on (not counting how much extra would be required if the current non-participating 25% decide to sign on). That's almost exactly the amount ($13 million) the state recently cut "to providers of in-home care to seniors and the disabled" as part of dealing with the state's $341 million projected shortfall. Hey, PEBB in, seniors and disabled out.

With the State of Oregon's continuing budget problems, not to mention the fact that PEBB has no evidence that programs already in use* similar to their Health Engagement Model have saved a dime in medical insurance expenses or make employes more healthy, PEBB still trundles on in its desire to reformat state workers' lives. Public employees are PEBB's own little social sample to do with almost as they choose.

But there have been a few pebbles in the shoe, so to speak. First there was major bungling on intrusive, non-health-related questions which even caused upset in the state legislature.

Second there was an incompetent system set up in which people were not sure who their information would be shared with or if their compliance was even noted.**

Union representatives on PEBB were clearly getting their members' message of complaint which resulted in a recent 4-4 split*** (tie vote broken when Chairman Sean Kolmer voted yes) between labor and management representatives on the PEBB. Labor representative attention was further focused with the almost loss of fair share member dues****.

Apparently all this was sufficient to finally pressure PEBB to do a reversal in policy. Instead of fining employees $20.00 ($35.00 for couples) a month for not participating, PEBB will now pay employees $17.50 ($35.00 for couples) a month for participating.  It will be interesting to see what kind of participation rate this gets.
*From a February 17, 2012 Statesman Journal article no longer online:
"Longtime board member Jeanene Smith noted that previous efforts to get PEBB members to take health risk assessments have resulted in only a couple thousand participants."
. . .
"'That is way more than have ever participated in the 8 or 9 years I've been on this board,' she said. 'The assessments have been there, and no one has ever gone to them.'"
**From an April 6, 2012 Statesman Journal article no longer online:
"Some workers also may have been daunted by technical problems with the online surveys and either gave up trying or failed to get credit for forms they actually did fill out, SEIU Local 503 Executive Director Heather Conroy said.

“'We’ve been raising alarm bells over technical problems people have been having,' Conroy said."
***See earlier post.

****From a March 15, 2012 Statesman Journal article no longer online:
"Workers in Construction Contractors Board Local 3581 tied 21-21 on a vote to rescind the 'fair share' agreement, under which its 85 workers must pay AFSCME dues regardless of whether they are union members.

"A tie means the measure fails. The vote was open to everyone in the bargaining unit, union and nonunion.

"Employees staged the vote to protest AFSCME's participation in the creation of a controversial new wellness program called the Health Engagement Model.

"'They wanted to send a message to the union,' Local 3581 President Joe Laria said of workers who supported the measure, which is called a deauthorization vote. 'I think our message was received loud and clear.'"
. . .
"A successful deauthorization vote would have meant that workers represented by Local 3581 who don't belong to the union no longer would have had to pay union dues."


MAX Redline said...

I'd say "freaking amazing", but unfortunately it's about what I've come to expect. Great catch!

It never occurs to these bright folks to admit to a mistake, shut it all down, and start over.

Ten Mile Island said...

Wait until you see the cluster coming from Dr. K's CCO's.

T. D. said...

Thanks, guys, for your comments.

A real problem is "profiling". Heh. In order to impact the supposedly problematical 20%, they have to steamroll the other 80%.

Further, and not addressed in any of the media coverage, changing the health of the 20% is not so easy--otherwise there would be a great deal fewer health problems in heavy-handed states like Cuba, Russia and China, not to mention North Korea, than the rest of the world.

"'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, a nonprofit human resources research organization] 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.'

"Without some means to get unhealthy people involved, wellness programs tend to have little to no impact on health care costs, said John Rother, president and chief executive officer of the National Coalition on Health Care, a health care reform advocacy group."