“It looks like an advertisement, but don’t recycle this one.” That was all the email said. After checking my work mailbox, I realized exactly what the sender meant: the piece of paper looked like any other flyer from the wellness screening our work
partners with forces us to utilize. But instead of some hoaky seasonal saying (“Falling for Fitness”, “Good Health Doesn’t Hibernate”, you know the drill), a threat lurked below the fold. This school year, the biometric wellness screening results could cost us big time.
What the Wellness Screening Penalty Means
The flyer promises that this new program will “help you feel empowered and motivated to take your wellbeing to the next level.” It’s so singsong, I imagine Effie Trinket unfurling a slip of paper before chirping away.
It also promises that the results of certain health metrics will determine the next year’s wellness premium adjustment. The benchmark is more like one of those ghost chairs that were really popular on Instagram a few years back. You know it’s there, but you’re still not 100% certain of details or why anyone wants one. Here’s what I can make out so far. The most important metrics seems to be glucose, triglycerides, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure. As for the rest, I’ll find out sooner or later.
To say that Mr. P and I have some work to do is an understatement. In fact, as I sat down to write, I found myself mulling over the topic while twisting the gray cap back and forth on a Diet Coke. A handful of you might know it as the nectar of the gods. Others of you might recognize it for the health and financial trap that it is. Though I had long sworn it off, I have found myself reaching for Diet Coke and a handful of other vices as of late.
Don’t worry. My persona is still way more grandma than rock ‘n roll. I mostly mean sugar. While I do usually take my mornings with a kickstart of caffeine thanks to my favorite teas, I have fallen back on sugar to power through the afternoons and evenings. I’m not sleeping enough. Not even close. So, I do what I can to keep going.
I also know that both Mr. P and I have spent far more time obsessing about what goes into our son’s body than our own. Most dinners involve us taking turns choking down a meal—sans salads, of course, because those don’t come out of the Crock Pot like everything else—while our son alternates between dancing in his chair and squawking angrily like a baby bird waiting to have another piece of broccoli dropped into its maw. Are we eating unhealthily? No, not really. But we could do a lot better.
Final Thoughts on a Wellness Screening Penalty
I know that the research shows that these wellness screenings don’t do much of anything to actually help with employee health or even save employers much money, but the promise of a wellness screening penalty sort of worked. I’ve given enough thought to it that it is likely going to be the tipping point to propel me to cutback on sugar and dump Diet Coke again. While I don’t think it is nearly as motivating as my Fitbit (the 10,000 step streak is still going strong!), this penalty isn’t entirely ineffective. At least not to someone who is apparently both extrinsically motivated and frugal af.
That doesn’t mean that I am not bracing for a wellness screening penalty. I am. In all my years of doing these mandatory screenings, my blood pressure reading is always high. It’s a combination of many factors, none of which involve diet or lifestyle. The screenings usually run anywhere between 15-30 minutes behind, and I’m not particularly patient. Not when the teacher’s lounge is transformed into a sick bay with tables topped with vials of blood barricading my pathway to the staff mailboxes. Then, there’s the fact that the blood pressure cuff usually flops off my noodle arm. By the
third fortieth try, I’m usually offering to cuff myself. By the time the metrics are recorded, my blood pressure probably does match that of Bruce Banner right before he hulks out.
So Tell Me…Do you find yourself doing ridiculous things to save on insurance?
Oh wow. Yes, these screenings are such a pain. And yes, Mr. ThreeYear does them every year for the wellness money. I agree with you that trackers are way more effective. But, we’re trapped into the darn screenings until someone comes up with another hoop to jump through.
I wouldn’t necessarily mind the hoops if I thought they would actually be accurate or helpful!
Substitute non-caffeinated herbal tea for that diet coke in the afternoon. Start slowly. Over time you’ll find that you don’t miss it!
The first time I quit Diet Coke it was BAD. The headaches were like nothing I had ever felt, and I had migraines growing up. Thankfully, I don’t think I’m really hooked like I was. But I suppose we’ll find out!
1. I could not live without coffee. I’ve learned to deal with, and accept my weakness. Don’t judge me ;-).
2. We do the wellness stuff here too, but I ignore it. It costs me a few hundred dollars a year, but I count my time worth more so I basically tell them to [expletive] off, nicely, of course.
3. There are more important things than saving a few bucks. Among them: happiness, lack of stress of the foolish demands of others, and, of course caffeine.
Oldster, can I just have you write my posts for me? This is an amazing list!
See, we miss out on all this sort of preventative medicine in the UK, I always wonder how useful it could be.
And since when did caffeine become bad?
Ha! I don’t think it is.
And IMHO this isn’t preventative medicine. It’s one blood draw that my primary doctor always redoes because he doesn’t trust the results. LOL
Mrs. Picky Pincher
I … ugh. I get why companies want to do screening penalties, but I feel like positive reinforcement is a better way to encourage employees to actually stay healthy. For example, I used to contract at a MegaCorp that gamified fitness. You earned points for meeting your daily steps, which you could cash in for PTO or a bonus.
the Budget Epicurean
OMG WHAT?!? That sounds amazing, please email me their name so I can apply! 😉 I’d eat kale all day erryday, and even train for a 5K, to earn an extra week of vacay. (lol, accidental rhymes)
Wow, Penny, sorry to hear your screening is more stressful… all my workplace does is have you check a box saying “I don’t smoke” and you get a credit… I kind of wish we did more preventive health measures, because it is SO much easier to get ahead of bad habits and start healthy ones than to clean up the mess from decades of poor choices but… ‘murica.
You could try an easy breathing exercise when you’re in line: Uses your ring finger and thumb on one hand. Place thumb against one nostril, and breathe in through the other. Hold it 2-3 seconds, switch out thumb and place your ring finger against the other side nostril. Breathe out for 3. Breathe back in through that side, hold 2-3. Switch back to thumb, breathe out for 3. Repeat that 3-5 times, or as much as you need to feel calm. 🙂
That’s great advice, BE!
I hate these things for their ableism, too. I have genetically great lab results. That isn’t my employer’s business. I don’t “deserve” more money because of my genetic fluke.