November 16, 2016
$2 Million Reward if Wellness Works!
by Al Lewis
Does wellness save money? I say no. The industry says yes. The difference is that I'm backing up my claim by offering a $2 million reward.
Does wellness save money?
I say no.
The wellness industry — specifically its trade association, the Health Industry Research Organization (HERO) — says yes.
We both can’t be right. The difference is that I am backing up my conclusion with a $2 million reward, up from last year’s paltry $1 million offer, for showing that wellness works.
See also: What Trump Means for Workplace Wellness
Beyond that $2 million, I would also send a $1 million donation to the Boise School District to atone for the highly unfavorable coverage it has received about its program, coverage apparently so biased that the CEO of Boise’s vendor, Steve Aldana, called the award-winning STATNews journalist who wrote it a “lier.”
To win the $2 million reward for yourself and the $1 million for the school district, you just need to prove (using the more-likely-than-not civil standard of proof), the following (to bend over backward to be fair, I will start out by offering to use only materials prepared by your side):
- During this millennium, the wellness industry has reduced hospitalizations by enough to break even, using the government’s Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project database. For this one, I will concede in advance that the wellness-sensitive medical event methodology (“potentially preventable hospitalizations”) as described on pages 22-23 of the HERO Outcomes Guidebook is the one to use. (HERO and I agree that non-hospitalization expenses increase.)
- The vendor anointed in 2016 as the “best” vendor, Wellsteps, indeed did reduce the costs of the Boise School District by about a third (as the company claimed), specifically by making the employees sufficiently healthier to support that savings (as the company claimed). For this one, I will concede in advance that the raw data collected by Wellsteps is accurate. In other words, we are both working off Wellsteps’ own published reports.
Here are the rules. This is a binding legal offer, as any attorney will tell you.
Panel, Venue and Judges
We each pick two panelists from Peter Grant’s “A-List” of the leading 260 health economists and policy experts (this is an invitation-only email group where health policy and health economics concerns are addressed and debated) that are unaffiliated with either the wellness industry or with my company, Quizzify, and together they pick a fifth.
The parties will convene in Boston for a 2.5-hour finalist presentation, featuring:
- 10-minute opening statements, in which as many as 15 slides are allowed;
- 30-minute cross-examinations with follow-up questions and no limitations on subject matter;
- 60 minutes in which panelists control the agenda and may ask questions of either party based on either the oral or the written submissions;
- Five-minute closing statements.
Entry Fee and Award
I give you a lien on $2 million as soon as you put $200,000 in escrow to cover the costs of the program, for panelist honoraria, venue, etc., as well as for wasting my time with your quixotry. If I win, I will make a $100,000 in-kind donation to the Boise School District to help compensate them for the fees the district wasted on its wellness program.
Length and content of Submissions
Each side submits up to 2,000 words and five graphs, supported by as many as 20 links; the material linked must pre-date the award application to discourage either side from creating linked material specifically for this contest.
Publicly available materials from the lay media or blogs may be used, as well as from any of the 10 academic journals with the highest “impact factors,” such as Health Affairs, published within the last five years.
Each party may separately cite previous invalidating mistakes made by the other party that might speak to the credibility of the other party.
Either side may cite an unlimited number of “declarations against interest” made within the last five years — meaning comments made by the other party so prejudicial to their own position that the other party would have said them only if they believed these statements to be true. Example: If I said, “Wellness definitely saves money” (except when I said that as an April Fool’s gag a few years back), you could cite that. There is no word limit on these.
See also: There May Be a Cure for Wellness
Each party can then rebut the other party in writing with up to 2,000 words and five graphs as well as 20 links.
Additionally, we both take a lie detector test. Each side will present the polygraph operator with five questions, and all 10 questions will be asked of both parties. Results are then sent to the panelists.
What if you want to claim the award?
Send $1,000 via Paypal to firstname.lastname@example.org to hold your spot. I will set up an escrow account at Bank of America. Once we both sign the escrow papers, you send the $200,000 to that account, and I’ll give you first lien on $2 million of asset