Kevin Volpp and Mark Pauly Critique Penn State's Wellness Program

Kevin Volpp and Mark Pauly Critique Penn State's Wellness Program

In interviews on NPR radio station WPSU and in the Philadelphia Inquirer,  LDI Senior Fellows Kevin Volpp and Mark Pauly critique a new Penn State wellness plan that requires non-participating employees to pay a $100 monthly surcharge for their health insurance.

Volpp, MD, PhD and Director of the University of Pennsylvania's LDI Center for Health Incentives and Behavioral Economics (CHIBE) noted that, "a penalty-type program doesn't engender warm feelings among the employees that the employer is looking out for their best interests and is just trying to help them." CHIBE is a research center heavily involved in studying incentive and penalty systems designed to encourage healthier employee lifestyles and behaviors. He pointed out that penalties, instead of modest rewards, can "have negative consequences."

Also commenting on the controversial program in the same Inquirer story, Wharton Health Care Management Professor Mark Pauly said "It's a pipe dream that it will save Penn State money."

Pauly, PhD, explained that employers across the country are increasingly requesting employees' health information, but said the Penn State program "is far more aggressive in terms of its punishment."

WPSU, which is based at Penn State in Centre County, reported that many employees and faculty members there were not happy with the way the new wellness program was structured or unexpectedly announced. Called "Take Care of Your Health," it requires employees to fill out a wellness profile, get an annual physical and submit to biometric screening. Employees who decline are assessed the $100 monthly surcharge. In addition, smokers are required to pay an additional surcharge.