Our health insurance rolled over at the start of this month, taking with it the wellness program I’ve participated in for the last year and a half. The wellness program paid me $1.00 for every week that I ate five servings of fruits and vegetables five or more days and $0.37 per 30-minute workout, up to once per day. There were other program options, such as smoking cessation, but the food and workouts ones and the yearly wellness survey were the only ones applicable to me. Over the time that I participated I earned about $150 in rewards, which I took in the form of Amazon gift cards.
But now that program is no more! All that’s left is their discount buying program, which I guess would be useful if I ever bought things. I much prefer the straight-up money for tracking, which I already did!
I’m almost ashamed to say it, but being paid for a minimum number of servings of fruits and vegetables definitely got me eating more of them! I had been tracking my eating for some time but I thought of food in terms of macronutrients primarily, not food groups. I was eating a very low amount of sugar at the time, which made fitting in any fruits and some vegetables rather tricky, but I was still eating some grains “for the fiber.” Finding out about the wellness program coincided for me with reading a couple books on the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, both of which spurred me to focus more on the food groups than macros. I think this has definitely been a good thing for my health, though not necessarily for weight loss.
The other behavior change I made was lengthening all my workouts to at least 30 minutes, even those designed to be shorter, which was a waste of time but I wanted to come by the $0.37 honestly!
Speaking of coming by it honestly, Kyle pointed out to me the day I first read about the program that it would be nothing to game the system. There was no verification for the logged food and workouts so it was completely on your honor. I’m sure that plenty of people just made up whatever to get the maximum rewards. We assumed that they must have built that loss into their incentives.
I’ve read that overall wellness programs are effective in reducing heath care expenditures, but I guess this particular one must not have been, since they cancelled it. It’s all about the bottom line to these insurance companies, right? I will definitely miss the gift cards; the only upside is that I no longer have to extend my two “10-minute” weekly workouts to 30 minutes.
When I make goals for myself I prefer input goals rather than output goals because I don’t have control over outputs, i.e. ‘I will eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily’ but not ‘I will lose one pound this week.’ But if I were the health insurance company, I would prefer to pay out only for results, not the inputs like this particular program did. I would want to pay for improving health metrics or keeping them in ideal ranges, not just potentially ineffective efforts.
Have you ever participated in a health insurance wellness program and how did it work? Do you prefer input goals or output goals?
photo from Free Digital Photos