Penn State takes make-up class in wellness News added by Benefits Pro on October 3, 2013

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Joined: September 07, 2011

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By Dan Cook

The ongoing education of Penn State University’s HR department continues.

In its most recent trip to the classroom of real life, the university’s benefits staff apparently learned that the carrot and the stick approach to wellness program engagement may not be the best way to encourage participation.

See also: Penn State wellness plan draws fire

Penn State touched off a brou-ha-ha in August when it announced that employees covered by its benefits plan would have to participate in an online wellness questionnaire or face fines for failing to do so. The questionnaire, managed by WebMD, asked a lot of very personal health questions. The announcement drew an angry backlash that had Penn State HR folks backpedaling at record speeds.

Now, the university thinks it has it right. As reported in the local paper, the Centre Daily Times, the university is now offering what amounts to a bonus for those who complete the revised wellness profile and meet other objectives of the program.

“Penn State will give $100 to each employee who completes an online health profile through WebMD, has a biometric screening done and agrees to see a doctor for a preventative-care medical exam. Spouses or same-sex partners who go through the same process will bump up the level of the bonus to $150 total,” the paper reported.

The university estimates it’ll cost about $1.2 million to dole out the “reward” dollars.

There’s a deadline for completion — Nov. 22 — and in January those who followed through will have the C-notes deposited in their accounts, the university said.

That’s a pretty decent U-turn. In August, Penn State was going to levy a fine of $100 against anyone who didn’t participate in the online profile. In addition, smokers and spouses/partners of covered individuals who had an alternative workplace health coverage option were going to be fined.

All that is now off the table. And, in a further acknowledgement of the university’s past wrongs, any employee who filled out the condemned questionnaire can now go online and delete anything they care to from their profile.

The $100 fine for not filling out the profile was dumped two weeks ago after a meeting between Penn State Faculty Senate members and administrators. University bosses also agreed to put a task force together to “look into alternatives for implementing the health care program,” the newspaper reported, and the admin folks promised to get input from faculty and staff before taking any benefits cost-control measures.

Ironically, the newspaper reported, most Penn State employees did decide to participate in the profile and other elements of the wellness plan.

“Almost 10,300 people have gotten the biometric screening, and 9,710 employees have completed the online profile through WebMD. About 8,700 workers have made the promise to see a doctor for a preventative medical exam,” the paper said.

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