Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Devil is in the Implementation: Developing a Punch List of Glitches in Penn State's Wellness Program

I have been following the institutionalization of wellness programs at academic institutions.  I have noted its character as eugenics for the benefit of the employer and the incidental benefit of employees, grounded in the fundamental cost cutting premises as the basic objective of such programs.

(Pix (c) Larry Catá Backer 2013)

What is starting to emerge now are the sorts of traps for the unwary, and other implementation glitches that tend to have a detrimental effect on employee beneficiaries though no real harm to the bottom line of the plan administrators.  For that reason alone, it might be useful to highlight these glitches as they become apparent.  If readers come across additional glitches, and traps for the unwary, please write in and I will post them for the benefit of other participants.

These from readers:

1.  One thing you might want to publicize is the need to check and correct your records on the new site – the site owners are constantly importing new and old, historic information, apparently from the insurer and because of the choices made by the administrator in designing these protocols, the importation of historic records tend be incorrect in that the condition is always listed as current, still occurring. So, a report of an infection treated several years ago is marked as still existing. You have to correct every record by hand.

2.  There is no way to opt out of the exploitation of individual medical records by any group that the university can sell these records to. There is also no way to opt out of receiving any advertising or solicitation from any person who uses these records to sell their products or services.  Also there is no way to know when and how a person's records are sold or otherwise made available.  The university appears to have alienated all rights to our own records and then assumes the power to exploit them for its own benefit.  At the least there should be an accounting mechanism of some kind.  More important there should be a way of avoiding any solicitation that might be made because the university permits its plan administrator access to our records. If the government can permit people to avoid phone solicitation, then the university should be able to do the same.

3.  It may be necessary to take the helpful information on life style choices sent to individuals with some caution.  The small print on one states that the provider "is not affiliated with any insurance or third party provider . . .[and] does not replace health insurance coverage, provide medical care or recommend treatment." 


  1. For the biometric screenings, you have to sign an ICH form that includes a waiver of legal claims for "any harm" related to the screening. There is similar language in the Terms and Conditions governing use of WebMD.

    Can the university compel employees to enter into legal contracts of this sort with third parties, or dictate that these contracts include sweeping legal waivers?

  2. I have another question. Why has the faculty Senate been SILENT on this issue for more than two weeks now? I have written to them many times, and I know dozens of others who tell me that they have tried as well. That's why I started the petition.