Being in the insurance industry and helping clients understand and implement wellness programs, I was enthusiastic when my husband’s company rolled out requirements for a new wellness program.
While the intentions were good, it became very evident that the process had not been well thought out—at least not for the spouses and dependents required to participate for premium discounts.
Notification and Timeframe:
For Employees: The company rolled out the plan with information during open enrollment, and they allowed six months for the employees to complete their screenings and physicals. If the deadline was missed, they would see the adjustments in their payroll deductions following that time frame.
For Spouses/Dependents: The company provided information for the employees to take home to spouses with a 30 day time frame to complete the required process.
Location and Accessibility:
For Employees: The company brought a screening company to the facilities (to the employees), and had each one schedule a 15-minute screening, on the clock, to ensure the accessibility of the program to workers. Employees completed the health screening at work, and simply had to take the health assessment online from home within the six month time frame allowed.
For Spouses/Dependents: The company listed requirements, one of them being “Do not contact the HR/Benefits office,” that went as follows …
1) Call this number and request the required forms for your screening visit.
2) Go to one of these facilities on the provided list for your screening visit, not your physician, but one of these clinics.
3) Fax your results, which you will receive while at your screening visit, to this fax number by a specific date, which was less than 30 days out by the time paperwork was received at home by employees.
Again, I kept an open mind—appreciative of the efforts the company was making to improve the health and wellness of families through this incentive opportunity. But, I was shaking my head at some of the procedures identified for dependents.
As a spouse of an employee, this is where the wellness program made me sick—literally and figuratively:
I received the instructions from my husband about three and a half weeks prior to the deadline. This delay can be expected from most employees when they consider they have already completed their wellness program requirements by that time, and they probably assumed it would be as easy for the dependents. However, this is not an accurate assumption.
I was just starting a round of medications and antibiotics for an upper respiratory infection when the paperwork was received. When my medications were finished, I had two weeks remaining to complete the wellness screening.
I called the number provided in step 1 of 3 the following day (a Monday), and I requested where to go to access the forms required for the screening visit. The representative on the phone asked if I would like it mailed to my home address or emailed to me. I asked if it was available for download from the internet, which it was not, so I agreed to have it emailed to save time.
The same day, I contacted the closest listed clinic to my home address, which was still a 30 minute drive in the opposite direction from my office, assuming no traffic. The office staff of the clinic let me know they were “out of the kits” that were required for the screenings, but they had some on order.
I checked my email again, and still, there was no form from the phone call request.
I asked the clinic when I should plan on coming in, and clarified that I wanted to make sure they would have the kits available. They said to plan for the following Wednesday or Thursday.
To clarify the frustration I was feeling at this point … I called for the form on a Monday, and had to wait for it to arrive by email. Hours later, the email had not arrived. I called the clinic for an appointment and found out I had to wait another week and a half for the required “kits” that this specific wellness program screening required to be delivered. This cut my response time down to two days if I was able to get in on the Thursday morning the kits were guaranteed to be there—the day before the results submission deadline.
After verifying that the other locations within an hour of my home were also waiting on the kits to arrive, I set my appointment for 8 a.m. Thursday morning, a week and a half out, and the day before the deadline. This was the absolute earliest possible time frame since I was not allowed to have the lab work and physical done by my personal family physician’s office a few minutes from my house, nor was I able to use my physical from a few months earlier (which would have saved the company money). There was still no mystery form in my email the following Wednesday, so I broke the rules and emailed the HR person I know. I asked for a copy, told her I had waited more than a week for the form to arrive, and that I had searched online to no avail. She emailed it to me.
Thursday morning arrived. At 7:15 a.m., I left my house, and drove without having coffee since the screening labs required fasting. I should point out that I have a difficult time walking or talking without my morning coffee, let alone driving into downtown traffic. Forty-five minutes later, after being routed through several construction areas and finding that the exit I needed was not available due to construction, I finally arrived at the facility where it didn’t appear safe to walk alone.
After searching for parking in the safest spot available, and praying that my car would still be there when I came out, I entered the clinic. The waiting area, designed for 15 people at the most, had a minimum of 30 people crammed in like sardines. I squeezed my way through the coughing, sneezing, and obviously sick people to the front desk. I was informed I had to wait at least 30 minutes. Appointments were irrelevant. Later, I was told it would be another 30 minutes.
During my wait, I tried to hide in a corner and inconspicuously cover my face with my jacket to keep some of the germs away. But, people openly coughed and sneezed in my direction, wiped their hands on the arms of the chairs afterward, and contaminated the area further. I was very much out of my comfort zone, and my blood pressure was rising by the minute.
Needless to say, when it was finally my turn, my blood pressure was slightly elevated according to the screening requirements, my sugar level was one point over what they wanted for perfect, and my BMI didn’t meet the perfect requirement either (but I would have been surprised if it did). I just had to pass one of the few pieces … which I did not under the circumstances. Afterward, I was barely able to convince the front desk that I had to have the completed form given back to me to fax in by the next day.
After the wellness visit from hell, I visited my physician four days later with fever and congestion that no doubt came from being exposed in that waiting room. I did have my labs and blood-pressure readings redone, and they were all fine. Are those readings eligible for the wellness discount? No.
As I later explained this series of events to my husband, I began wondering about how many others lost their discounts due to the multiple levels of difficulty that the process created unnecessarily. Many families may lose their insurance benefits through the employer due to the cost being above their ability to pay going forward.
Did I mention that the form I needed finally arrived by email—two hours after the clinic closed on the last day allowed for the screening?
For a wonderful company to put so much effort into the process for the employees, they really dropped the ball when it came to dependents.
Agents, enrollers, and HR professionals should remember this when assisting with any roll-out for wellness programs or benefit enrollments. Happy and engaged families result in happier and more productive employees. When spouses are involved, treat them with the same concern and respect as the employees, and don’t wait until the deadline is close to herd them like cattle to a slaughterhouse where they’re lucky to have any kind of pleasant outcome.