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More on Health Screenings

We’ve written several times about the College’s costly program of employee health screening (here and here). All staffers have been offered $200 each to participate in screening and coaching sessions. Amazing, isn’t it, that Dartmouth needs to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to get its employees to do what is good for them?

There is a national debate on screening, and how to motivate employees to take care of themselves and potentially reduce health care costs. The Washington Post summarized the controversy:

Retailer CVS was in the news Tuesday for requiring that all of its 200,000 employees who participate in the company’s health-insurance plan get a health screening (paid for by CVS) that assesses their weight, height, body fat and cholesterol levels-or pay some $600 more for their health coverage a year. The Boston Herald, followed by publications including the Los Angeles Times and Gawker, reported that if employees do not submit to the health assessment by May 1 then their annual health insurance costs will increase…

The real question to me, however, is not whether employers should ask workers to submit to a health screening, it’s how they should motivate them to do it. According to the data from Aon Hewitt, 79 percent of those employers who use financial incentives give rewards for screenings, whereas only 5 percent dole out penalties. (The rest use some combination of both.)

That could be changing, though. Stephanie Cronk, a senior vice president in the consultancy’s health and benefits practice, said in a phone interview that some 50 percent of the survey’s respondents said they would strongly consider switching to penalties in the next three to five years. “The general philosophy has been you tend to want to reward people for those behaviors,” Cronk says. “But there’s also a very strong body of literature that says [penalty] has a greater impact.”

Once again, Dartmouth is behind the curve. But hey, we are rich, so what is it to spend even more money on this kind of thing? If the College is short on cash, the Trustees can just raise tuition, right?

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