Thursday, August 29, 2013

Secret Plan by SEIU-UHW and Kaiser Permanente to Push Wellness Program Gets Journalist’s Attention

Remember the leaked memo detailing plans by Kaiser Permanente and SEIU-UHW to carry out publicity stunts to push their corporate wellness program on workers?

Well, so far, the stunts -- featuring SEIU-UHW’s Dave Regan and Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson -- haven’t materialized… but journalists have certainly taken note of the partners’ secretly planned publicity ploy.

In an article published by AlterNet, journalist James Cersonsky links to the leaked planning memo during his discussion of corporate wellness programs. Here’s what he says:

So far, NUHW, which covers some 5,000 Kaiser workers, has resisted corporate wellness. SEIU, which has a track record of being overly friendly with employers and attacking NUHW, has welcomed it. Leaked minutes from a July 18 meeting between Kaiser officials, SEIU and the Kaiser Coalition of Unions reveal a joint plan to promote the program to workers and the public. It reads, “Outreach to elected officials and health policy types—promoting what we're doing and why,” and then lists a variety of potential advocates, ranging from Michelle Obama to Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul. It also notes plans for a joint op-ed by Kaiser’s CEO and SEIU-United Healthcare West’s president. Intriguingly, it says, “We won't pitch to labor reporters.”

The reporter goes on to give more details about wellness programs

Wellness programs are growing in the public and private sectors. In a survey of 335 private companies, HR firm Towers Watson found a 50 percent increase in the use of wellness-related incentives and penalties between 2009 and 2011… Though the programs are pitched as proactive public health reforms, they're also a way for employers to shift healthcare costs onto workers—and eschew their role in creating safe and healthy workplaces. In California, most healthcare is fully paid by employers. John Borsos, the secretary-treasurer of the National Union of Healthcare Workers, sees wellness plans as a slippery slope for employers to negotiate employee contributions into union contracts. In addition, in the health care industry, which ranks among the highest in incidence of worker illness and injury, carrot-and-stick health programs stand out for what they don't do. “If employers were truly concerned with employees' health, they would make the workplace better,” he says.

Here’s a link to the full article.