Thursday, April 16, 2015

All's Not Well That Ends With Wellness

Boss Abele Squarepants
Boss Abele is desperately trying to garner some positive attention to himself, even if it means issuing meaningless press releases about failing programs and calling them successes:
On April 23, Milwaukee County will receive an award from the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) for its approach in developing programs that improve the health and wellbeing of County employees. WELCOA is widely recognized and highly regarded for its expertise and innovative approach to workplace wellness initiatives.

"We don't leave workplace wellness to chance," said County Executive Chris Abele. "We believe that providing employees with wellness opportunities not only improves personal health and wellbeing, but increases employee job satisfaction and morale as well. I am incredibly proud of these efforts and want to thank all of our employees whose participation makes this award possible. Creating a healthy workplace is good for employees and also leads to better outcomes for our community."

The wellness program at Milwaukee County was designed and implemented with best practices based on what's worked well in other organizations. Milwaukee County is being recognized after less than two years of operation and is well on its way to being a leader in how it engages employees around their wellness.
His shining example that it's working is that 300 people took fruit baskets. That's less than 7% of the county workforce. If he held himself to the same standards that he holds the workers, the only reward that would be given is a pink slip.

What Abele is trying to do is give workers incentive to stay with the county without actually paying them or giving them solid benefits.  What good is a wellness program when the workers or insurance poor and cannot afford to address any health concerns that might be discovered?

To make things worse, Abele is also failing at the worker attraction/retention aspect of things.  People are continuing to leave in droves, including division heads and his chief budgeteer, Josh Fudge, who announced on Thursday that he is leaving the county, even after Abele gave him a promotion and raise.  (At least that means no more Fudged budget numbers!)

If Abele wanted to have something to brag about, perhaps he should put his focus on running the county with common sense instead of cherry picked "best practices."  But then again, that would mean respecting and working with the employees, which is anathema to the boy prince.


  1. Wellness you say, well, If he would get a mop and pail and clean up some of the filthy work stations many employees find themselves in then at least that would actually be something I would applaud.

  2. What a coincidence. The Department of Labor released its research report on workplace wellness programs on April 16. "The study found that lifestyle management programs did not result in reduced utilization of health care services or reduced cost. No evidence was found of reduced costs from smoking cessation or pre-disease management programs. Greater exposure to interventions through telephonic counseling programs increased rather than reduced costs. Lower cardiovascular events attributable to wellness programs reduced costs, but did not come close to offsetting increased costs of participation. Wellness programs, in sum, do not do reduce health program cost, contrary to the assertions of program vendors and the beliefs of employers." (Workplace Wellness Programs: Federal Agencies Weigh In. By Timothy Jost. Health Affairs, Apr. 17, 2015.) With a ton of links to that and to a barrage of federal agencies' regulatory issuances and guidances re wellness programs and the ACA.