Category Archives: Work and Diabetes

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.

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.

Yay Co-Workers!

From time to time, I’ve alluded to the fact that there’s been a somewhat tenuous relationship between my work and my diabetes over the years. In the early years of living with this disease, there weren’t really any issues. If diabetes got in the way at all, it was due to my A1Cs being high more than anything else. I might have been a little more sluggish during those times, but I was still able to function at a pretty high level.

Since those first few years, I’ve had an on and off, good and bad relationship between work and diabetes. At times, things were difficult. Tensions were occasionally strained.

So, what’s my point? Where am I going with all of this?

Over the weekend, I celebrated my 15 year anniversary at the company where I work. I thought about it a little in the last month or so. Whenever someone hits a milestone anniversary, the department gets together and does a thank you, gives a plaque, and then you go back to work. That’s great, but five minutes of feel-good doesn’t always wash away things that bother you for five years or more.

The good news is that in the last couple years, things have seemed to thaw a bit in this relationship. I don’t know exactly when things changed, although I think I know, and at any rate, I’m glad they’ve changed. I’d like to think that I’m a bit less sensitive these days too, and that helps.

Still, I felt a little… nervous about reaching this milestone at work. Kind of like some old demons were left that I couldn’t get rid of. So how do I take this thing that feels so uncomfortable, and turn it into something that feels good? The thought gnawed at me for a few weeks.

Then it hit me. Blue Fridays. Since my anniversary was on a Sunday, I would ask everyone to wear blue on the Friday before. I would also ask them to make a donation to the Diabetes Community Advocacy Foundation. You know… the organization behind the Diabetes Social Media Advocacy website, the DSMA Live and DSMA en Vivo podcasts, and the weekly #DSMA Twitter chat. I took the idea to my bosses, and they were all for it. Instantly. So I sent an e-mail to my colleagues in Baltimore, New York, and Connecticut, and marked it on my calendar.

The Baltimore crew.  I'm in the back ( I thought I was tall)

The Baltimore crew. I’m in the back ( I thought I was tall)

When I got into work, and later as I watched people arrive, I would look around and see a sea of blue. To think that my co-workers would care enough to do this for me… it almost made me break down and cry. A co-worker shared with me that they were recently diagnosed with Type 2, and they were appreciative of an effort to elicit support for those who have to live with diabetes. That almost made me cry. Not everyone who donated online told me how much they contributed. But what I know of the contributions puts the total dollar amount into the hundreds.

That’s my work anniversary and Blue Fridays story. I never really thought about what marrying these two ideas would really mean. It went beyond what I could have imagined. I’m so glad we were able to do this. And I’m so grateful for the people I work with, who made my cause their cause for a day. Today, I feel really lucky to be part of their team.

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