August 10, 2015
$1 Million Reward to Show Wellness Works
by Al Lewis and Vik Khanna
We'll settle the wellness debate the old-fashioned way: offering a $1 million reward to anyone who can prove it isn't a horrible investment.
We hope at least a few of you have lamented –we’ll settle for noticed — our absence from ITL for the last six months. There are two reasons.
First, in the immortal words of the great philosopher Gerald Ford, “When a man is asked to make a speech, the first thing he has to do is decide what to say.” We needed something compelling to say, and at this point yet-another-vendor-making-up-outcomes is old news. In any event, there is now an entire website devoted to that topic. (New news: US Preventive Medicine is NOT making up its outcomes. It is the first wellness vendor to be validated.)
Second, we have spent the last six months answering the perennial question: “So what would you do instead?” by developing www.quizzify.com. Quizzify teaches employees that “just because it’s healthcare doesn’t mean it’s good for you,” and does it in an enjoyable Jeopardy-meets-health-education-meets-Comedy Central way, as playing the demo game will show. Quizzify’s savings are, uniquely in this industry, 100% guaranteed.
But we digress. The news of the day is that we want to settle once and for all the he said-she said debate about whether wellness saves money, and we’ll do it the old-fashioned way: by offering a million-dollar reward for anyone who can show that wellness isn’t a horrible investment. All someone has to do is show that the employer community as a whole breaks even on its wellness investment.
The inspiration for this reward came when a group calling itself “The Global Wellness Institute Roundtable” released a report criticizing us for “mud-slinging on ROI.” (In other words, “proving that there is no ROI.”) We are not familiar with this group. Their headliner seems to be a Dr. Michael Roizen. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because he used to work with Dr. Oz, though to Dr. Roizen’s credit he was not implicated in the congressional investigation of Dr. Oz.
This $1-million reward is – as an attorney recently posted– a binding legal contract. It is also totally fair. The “pro” party is allowed to use the wellness industry’s own “official” outcomes report, which was compiled with no input from anyone opposed to wellness. Further, the panel of judges is selected from an independent email list, run by healthcare policy impresario Peter Grant. This is no ordinary independent email list—this is the invitation-only “A List” of healthcare policymakers, economists, journalists and government officials who make, influence or report the decisions and rules we live by. The “pro” party invites two people, we invite two and those four pick the fifth. This is truly the ultimate in fairness.
Unfortunately, “fairness” is perhaps the second-scariest word to a wellness vendor (“validity” being the first), so there is no chance of anyone taking us up on this. (There is a slight risk in challenging us—whichever party loses has to pay the expenses of the contest, including the panelist fees. This will run likely $100,000. Still, that makes the proposition at worst 10-to-one odds, and the “pro” forces get their $100,000 back if they win.)
Not being taken up on this offer is, of course, the entire point of making the offer. The wellness industry’s inaction will prove what numerous gaffes and misstatements have already revealed: Wellness industry leaders know that wellness loses money. For them, wellness is all about maintaining the façade of saving money so that they don’t get fired from the employers they’ve been snookering.