A team of Incentive Federation members, led by executive director George Delta, descended on Washington, DC, on Tuesday Oct. 20, to help convince members of congress that wellness incentives must be part of health care reform.
The day started with a symposium held from 10:30 a.m. to noon in the Dirksen Senate Office Building entitled The Power of Incentives, Rewards, and Recognition in Driving American Business and Creating a Healthier Workforce, followed by afternoon meetings with staff members from the offices of Senators Charles Schumer (D-New York), Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), Richard J. Durbin (D-Illinois), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Representative Kathy Dahlkemper (D-Pennsylvania).
The industry contingent's goals were to give a voice to the industry and educate people on Capitol Hill about incentive programs, to demonstrate how safety and wellness programs can be used to improve the health of the American workforce, and to support a measure as part of the health care reform bill to make tangible personal-property wellness awards--such as weight-loss or smoking-cessation programs--valued at up to $400 for each employee nontaxable to the employee and deductible to the employer.
"The response exceeded my expectations," says Delta, adding that three fairly prominent players--Schumer, Hatch and Dahlkemper--are staunch supporters of wellness programs and have a commitment to them. "Generally speaking, everyone liked the idea of using incentives to drive people to use wellness programs. A couple wondered about their effectiveness, because they have a checkered past in terms of some data that show they do not work--mainly because most people fudge, saying they’ll do behavior X but then don't--but all uniformly accepted the idea that incentives can be used to help structure the programs correctly around the right targets, standards and benchmarks, and then drive people to use those good and effective wellness programs."
Adds participant Dave Peer, vice president of client services for Hinda Incentives, "Once we defined the industry and talked about how expansive it is, how it touches people, they were very responsive. But at end of day, it’s just a start. We'll need consistent, repetitive effort to achieve what we want to achieve."
Additional industry participants included Michelle Smith, vice president, O.C. Tanner; John Risberg, general counsel, Maritz; Michael Dermer, president/CEO, IncentOne; Richard Blabolil, president, Marketing Innovators; Tom Miller, president/CEO, The Miller Company; Norma Jean Knollenberg, owner of Top Brands; and Marriott International’s Stephen Maselko, vice president, MI Fulfillment Services, and Stacy Milne, vice president, global incentives and gift cards. Also involved were Lee Salazar of Targa Resources and Sean Roark, vice president, PromoPros, who worked together to implement a highly successful safety program that served as a client testimonial during the Capitol Hill meetings.
What's Needed Now
The next step--which must be completed within a week or two to be effective--includes pulling together additional industry case studies requested by congressional staff members that document the success of wellness programs and how incentives can drive their success, specifically showing how using tangible, in-kind incentives--not cash--motivates people. These could be key to the effort's success.
"Folks liked our message and asked us to provide additional information to help them help us make our case," says Delta. "We have a few additional meetings scheduled during the coming weeks, one with staffers on the Ways and Means Committee, and we’re working on setting up something with the Congressional Budget Office, to help them correctly score the tax legislation."
Scoring means to come up with the estimated cost of passing the legislation for revenue purposes. "Right now, wellness programs are seen as a revenue loser, but I think that's wrong," says Delta. "That's why we're trying to meet and show that at the very least they’re revenue neutral. We've got three weeks to a month. We’re building momentum."
— Nielsen Business Media