Opting out of Wellness Program means stiff penalties

The deadline for participating in the Wellness Program associated with the AP health insurance plan is fast approaching.

Many members have refused to take part in the program, citing concerns about personal privacy and its perceived intrusive nature. Others may have simply not noticed the deadline. The latest information we have (from early March) showed that fewer than 400 people had completed the three required steps in the program, about 275 had completed some of the steps and more than 200 had done none of them.

Ultimately, taking part is a matter of choice, but that choice should be an informed one. It’s important to note that those people who choose not to take part will start paying a surcharge of $50 per month, or $600 per year, beginning April 1.

 

WELLNESS PROGRAM: HOW TO ENROLL

 

To avoid the charge, AP employees must complete the program’s three steps by March 31.

  • The first step involves a biometric screening measuring cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure and body composition. This generally requires a visit to your physician, who will need to fax the results to the wellness program administrator on a form found on the website healthadvocate.com/ap.

It may take time to get an appointment, and you must complete all three steps by March 31, so this should be done as soon as possible. If your doctor has this information from on or after April 1, 2015, you don’t have to be rescreened, but your doctor must complete the form and fax it in to the wellness program.

***NOTE: If you have only the screening done at an appointment with your doctor, there should be no co-pay involved. And if you have your biometric screening done at your doctor’s office, remind your doctor to send your lab work to a lab that participates in the United Healthcare network. 

  • The second step is completing a online personal health profile. Topic areas include: weight, nutrition, exercise, stress, smoking, cancer risk, cholesterol and blood pressure. Those who’ve done it say it takes about 20 minutes. It is done on the website linked above. (Log in, click Wellness at the bottom of the page, then click Health Profile at the top of the page.)
  • The third step is a consultation with a program health coach, which is done by telephone. Call 888.493.5522 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET or email mywellness@healthadvocate.com to set up a time to speak with the coach.

 

West Corp., the company that operates Health Advocate, states on the program website that all of its “Wellness Coaches” have a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field and complete a 4-month training. The site says “they are also certified in tobacco cessation counseling by the American Lung Association and hold at least one additional certification in a relevant specialty (e.g., exercise physiology, nutrition, health education).” For those who choose to continue with phone calls after the initial contact, “personal health advocates” are typically registered nurses, as are “chronic care coaches.”

Many members have said the exchanges with the coaches are not particularly helpful, but this step is required. It can take as little as 5 minutes, and you can tell the coach you prefer to discuss your specific health issues with your personal doctor.

 

Privacy concerns

The AP insists that details of specific employee communications with the wellness program are confidential and are covered by the federal HIPPA privacy regulations applied to your medical insurance claims. The biometric screening data is not shared with United Healthcare.

The company does receive general information regarding which of the steps each person completed, and aggregated information related to trends, but no employee-specific health information. There is a privacy statement on the website.