Op Ed on Employer-Sponsored Wellness Programs

Today The Guardian published an op-ed I wrote about employer-sponsored wellness programs. You can find that op-ed here. I have researched and written about HIPAA, health plans, wellness, predictive analytics, and big data for years now. A lot of my work coalesced together when Robert Gellman and I researched and wrote the Scoring of America report. During this time, we found examples of health plans using all sorts of surprising data to assess members. We wrote about this in the Scoring report, for example, on p. 16 where a health plan used members’ retail purchase histories as part of the factors to enhance predictive risk models.

This week, a Wall Street Journal article provided new and troubling information about health data and predictive analytics in a discussion of employer-sponsored health programs. The WSJ article was surprising in its revelation of how far some of the data acquisition has now gone in just two short years since the publication of Scoring of America. I encourage you to take a look at the WSJ piece, and at the responsive op-ed that I wrote. Employee-sponsored wellness programs are complex to navigate, and it is important to note that wellness programs are  not just automatically covered under HIPAA — they have to meet specific criteria, and not all do. I discuss this in more detail in the op-ed.

I am pleased when wellness programs are helpful to people, but we must reign in data abuses that are impacting employees when employer-sp0nsored health plans are not covered under HIPAA. There need to be good, solid rules that protect fairness, accuracy, access to the records, and more.

-Pam Dixon

The Guardian Op Ed

WSJ article 

Scoring of America report