Love Letter to TEDMED

Wow. That’s all I can say after three unbelievable days attending the inaugural TEDMED DC event. My head is swelling with ideas and inspiration and innovative opportunities for population health. It was unlike any “event” I’ve ever attended and it sets a new standard for education and networking.

What’s it all about? TED stands for “technology,” “entertainment,” “design.” There were performance artist poetry slams about thinking outside the box that literally took my breath away. There were personal vignettes about surviving breast cancer by the President and CEO of the Red Cross. There were discussions about the technology of food, of fitness, of wellness, of illness. So much of this conference had a population health theme that is perfectly aligned with CCA’s goals and the work of our industry leaders. It was all just presented in a way that makes you think harder and better and more collaboratively.

A common thread through nearly every presentation, I found, was the importance of personal wellbeing and responsibility. Obesity was a key theme and presented from various perspectives. A huge takeaway for me: Obesity is directly linked to one-third of all cancers. Encouraging healthful behaviors at a community and social network level was another key issue and was the top choice of TEDMED delegates in the Great Challenges of health and medicine. Kudos to Challenge Advocate Rajiv Kumar, Founder and Chief Medical Officer, ShapeUp, for promoting the “Inventing Wellness Programs that Work” Challenge. Rest assured, you got several of my votes!

Finally, let me state emphatically: TEDMED, don’t change a thing for next year in DC. I ran into a few of my DC colleagues who work in other health industry organizations this week and, in the words of one, they just “didn’t get it.” Yes, it’s different. Yes, it’s all “West Coast-y.” It is NOT your same old, same old conference with a bunch of boring policy wonks and PowerPoints. Not all of the speakers were equally enthralling (although most of the ones I saw were) but there was certainly a nugget or grain of an idea in every single one that spurred a conversation and possibly another innovation down the road. This conference is about IDEAS and PEOPLE and NEW WAYS OF THINKING. It was also a great equalizer in that the vast cross section of delegates attended to meet and explore. There was no hierarchy, just idea sharing. It was, simply, awesome.

—Tracey Moorhead, President & CEO

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Incentive-Based Wellness Initiatives for All: Good practices = Good Outcomes

CCA has long supported the use of incentive-based workplace wellness programs. We’ve issued recommendations on core components and the role of incentives, and certainly agree that programs should not “inappropriately punish workers in poor health, [be] overly coercive, or create perverse financial incentives that result in poorer health outcomes.” We further believe that existing federal and state safeguards should be applied to programs that violate existing HIPAA requirements for reasonable design, annual requalification, alternative standards and other benchmarks. In short, there’s a growing body of research that clearly demonstrates the value of wellness programs, including those employing incentives for participation and outcomes, for improving health and reducing preventable health care costs (see here, here, here and here).

Congress, too, recognizes the value of wellness programs for all populations. The Affordable Care Act provided landmark recognition of workplace and community-based wellness and prevention programs. Particularly important, the statute in 2014 will increase from 20 percent to 30 percent of total premiums the allowable value of incentives employers may offer employees to participate in workplace wellness programs. We applaud Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, for his continued support for workplace wellness initiatives.

Now, another leading Senate Democrat is poised this week to unveil legislation that would offer incentive-based wellness programs to Medicare beneficiaries. This legislation recognizes the importance of wellness initiatives, including smoking cessation and weight management, and the success of incentive-driven wellness initiatives for our nation’s seniors.

I’m delighted to report on these developments and the sustained march toward greater awareness of the value of wellness programs for all populations. These developments stand in direct contrast to the thinly veiled conjecture and anecdotes propagated by policy organizations and advocacy groups that repeatedly ignore the preponderance of evidence on the benefits of workplace wellness programs.

Clearly, there is significant evidence of the positive impact of incentive-based wellness. CCA looks forward to supporting this important new Senate legislation and to promoting the real truth about wellness programs, using evidence and research rather than speculation and fear tactics.

—Tracey Moorhead, President & CEO

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