C’mon, CVS!

From the wonderful relationship that exists between employers and employees in the United States these days comes this little nugget. Go ahead, read it. I’ll wait.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/100573805

Does this bother you a bit? It bothers me a lot.

I’m not bothered by the fact that an employer wants to try to help their workforce get healthier. My employer does many of the same things that CVS is talking about here. In fact, I’ve written about it. Done correctly, these initiatives are a win-win: employees get help identifying and taking action against illnesses they might not have known about before screening. And employers, helping employees get healthier, mitigate some of their risk against future insurance claims. This is especially true if, like a lot of large employers, they are self-insured: meaning, they pay their own claims, but pay the insurance companies to leverage networks of doctors and handle claims processing and other administrative functions.

But that’s about the extent of the good stuff in what CVS is doing here.

If I were to ask questions of the CVS/Caremark CEO, and their benefits manager, the first question I would ask is: Why do you want to penalize employees for non-compliance with a policy, when you could be incentivizing employees to get healthy?

How much that might cost would be in the details of how and what kind of incentives you would deliver, but let’s be honest. The cost would be miniscule. How do I know this? Oh, why don’t you ask the thousands of employers who have been delivering incentives to employees for completing smoking cessation classes, weight loss programs, and medical/bio screenings for decades here in the USA?

Second, I would simply ask if they understood that by forcing their employees to comply (and they are forcing them—when you earn the kind of money the people at the retail store level are earning, you’re forcing them to comply), they are destroying their workforce?

Knowing what we know now about this issue, even if you’re 100 percent healthy… let’s see a show of hands: Who wants to go to work for CVS right now? Anyone? Bueller? That’s what I thought.

Certainly, if you’re a person with good skills and an ability to land a job elsewhere, CVS/Caremark is immediately going to the bottom of your list of prospects. Which means that the new employees they will be landing in the future will be bottom of the barrel talent who can’t get a job anywhere else. And existing employees who might have other choices (like maybe Walgreens or Rite-Aid or, oh… anyone else) are going to bolt the first chance they get too, even if it’s for no increase in pay. Which means the employees that remain after a couple of years under this program are again, bottom of the barrel talent. So, CVS/Caremark: What do you hope to gain here? And have you considered how much it will really cost you? Because it will cost you. You will not save money with this plan.

And you, dear reader, may ask, after 500 words or so, “Hey Stephen… what’s this got to do with Diabetes?”.

I don’t know. I guess I’m saying that I don’t trust a company that will force you to do these things. Because if they’ll do this, what’s next? Will they start denying coverage to people who are diagnosed with diabetes? Thankfully, under the Affordable Care Act, they won’t be able to. But will they try to cut back on what they cover? That, I think, is a very real possibility.

Their new policy says: “Going forward, you’ll be expected not just to know your numbers – but to manage them”. By who’s measure? Will they pay less in claims if a PWDs Hemoglobin A1c isn’t within range (and we all know how difficult that can be)? Will they (for example) try to push someone with diabetes, in their 50s, like me, toward the exit so they can avoid paying what they think will be larger and larger claims until the person is eligible for Medicare? And in doing so, try to justify their decision by pointing at this policy?

Maybe that seems far-fetched. But is it? I mean, they’re already willing to coerce their employees into complying with their demands or risk giving some of their pay back to their employer. Does this sound Anti-American to you? It does to me.

That’s the crux of the thing right there. CVS is portraying this as a wellness initiative, designed to keep employees as healthy as possible. I’m viewing this as being too heavy handed. Mostly, I see what they’re trying to accomplish, at least from their public statements, as possible– if they would just put a different spin on it and act like they actually cared about whether their employees are healthy. And happy. And if they did it without docking employees’ pay or using the information to penalize employees that they are trying to keep healthy in the first place.

By the way, I have a choice of major drugstore chains in my area. And guess what? CVS is not my retailer of choice anymore. They just don’t get it. And geez, these people are running a multi-billion dollar company.

Do you feel the same? Different? Feel free to let me know how you’re thinking.
 
 
 

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Comments

  • Scott E  On March 26, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    To be honest, this doesn’t bother me. My wife works in the healthcare field, and as such is expected to exhibit a healthy lifestyle (trying to explain corporate hypocrisy is a PR-person’s nightmare). Her company does the same thing, though phrased differently: they offer ‘incentives” for not smoking, for wearing a pedometer and logging the results (which, BTW, are only viewable to yourself, and can be faked with nobody knowing). An incentive for doing right versus a penalty for doing “wrong”… the difference is a matter of semantics.

    I would object if they discriminated against people for pre-existing conditions or things that are outside of one’s control. But if a company is covering a good chunk of a person’s medical expenses, I think it’s perfectly within their right to make sure that they’re not throwing good money after bad, and to ask the recipient of the benefits to take care of themselves.

    And the retail-store employees? The minimum-wage part timers probably don’t have health coverage anyway.

    Like

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