Health Insurance, Rewards, and Wearables, Oh My!

(If you did not read the title in a “sing-songy” voice, please reread. If you still don’t get it, you really need to watch The Wizard of Oz.)

I’ve been mulling over this particular post for well over a year now. Fortunately, I’ve waited. Had I written it a year ago, it would have had a different ending. Thankfully, my thinking has evolved. Time will do that for you, I guess. I’m hopeful that I will offend fewer people now.

I need to begin by making a little  confession. This past year, I’ve had a bad attitude (gasp) about one particular aspect of my school district’s health insurance. The source of my irritation? The “wellness and reward program”.

Granted, there are several components of the program that are useful, beneficial even. I applaud the health assessment which focuses on daily habits. I am also a proponent of the health screening that measures blood glucose, blood pressure, BMI and cholesterol. Both provide meaningful information to reflect and act upon.

But a reward’s program? 

Earning “points”, to be transferred into “bucks”, to be spent at the virtual “mall”? Really?

Motivating? Hardly. Infuriating? Definitely.

At least for me.

Because health is not a game for me. 

Shouldn’t motivation should come from within? …from wanting to feel alert…from wanting to feel energetic…from wanting to feel strong..from wanting to feel peaceful and content…from wanting to feel well rested and even keeled? 

That’s why I don’t eat a lot of processed foods. That’s why I try to exercise in moderation. That’s why I practice yoga. That’s why I pray. That’s why I’m in bed by 10 o’clock.

And everybody should be just like me.

End. Of. Story.

Yeah. I hate to admit it. But that’s what I was thinking.

As I was passing through this stage of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation, I became irritated with the potential harm the program could inflict upon your type A perfectionists. Or someone with a pattern of disordered eating. What is helpful to one, may very well be harmful to another.

The program did not encourage moderation. It encouraged “more”. The more workouts, the more points, the more rewards. It did not encourage listening to your body, which should be the goal for everyone.

There are times when people need to be rewarded for not working out, and there are some people who should be rewarded for eating a highly processed piece of cake without feeling guilt. Goal setting is not a one size fits all.

Soon after the implementation of the program, craziness overtook the workplace. Fitbits adorned the wrists of many. Information tracking quickly became an obsession. There was talk of Fitbits being placed on the tails of dogs and ceiling fans. People were losing sleep over not getting enough of the “right kind” of sleep. Too much time was spent uploading documentation of races run, of hours at the gym, of doctor’s visits, and dentist visits. In a society short of time, this seemed to be a complete waste of it.

After dwelling upon these shortcomings for far too long, I finally came to the conclusion that just because the reward’s program was not beneficial for me, didn’t mean it wasn’t beneficial for someone else. It could be a turning point, providing the incentive needed to make a healthy change. Maybe somebody needed the game playing aspect of the program. And what did it matter to me if they did? I got it. I really did. People needed different tools to attain their goals. Being healthy was the bottom line.

I’m still not at peace with the wellness and reward’s program as it stands. I continue to wrestle with what the program is lacking, what it fails to address. And what if fails to address is that health is multi-faceted. It’s not just about making healthy eating choices and exercising on a regular basis.

Mental health, spiritual health, social health and emotional health are as important as physical health. They are intertwined. You need them all to achieve optimal wellness. And if insurance companies and employers are going to require participation in programs, they should make sure the programs and rewards offered, address the needs of all.


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