An alleged new low: Scamming the employee wellness program
The Kansas City Star
Seven government workers in Kansas City face federal charges for fraudulently claimed money for incentives in their employee wellness program.
If these charges hold up, I’m going to be pretty angry with these people. Perks in the workplace are few and far between these days, and not to be exploited. Plus, wellness incentive programs are a great idea, and a scheme such as the one authorities are describing could discourage employers and insurers from offering them.
Six Kansas City employees and one Jackson County worker are accused of claiming that they and their family members participated in multiple athletic events, like triathlons, to receive cash incentives through their employee wellness plan.
Investigators say they roped hundreds of co-workers into the scheme, getting access to their accounts and logging in multiple athletic activities. The incentive program, offered by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City, gave people gift or pre-loaded debit cards up to $250 for staying healthy and exercising. The defendants allegedly logged in activities for their co-workers until they maxed out on points. The defendants would then keep $50 of the reward and the co-worker would get the rest.
Seriously, you wonder how these folks allegedly got away with this for as long as they did. They are charged with claiming more than $300,000 in fraudulent reward points. In some cases, investigators say, the defendants falsely said that family members of employees — including children as young as 3 years old — had participated in marathons and other athletic events.
I am a fan of any program that encourages people to eat well and exercise. There’s no question that the best health care plan, for individuals and society, is one in which people eat healthy food in moderate amounts and get a reasonable amount of physical activity.
Extra credit for things like marathons might not be a cost saver. In my experience, people who do a lot of those events spend a good deal of time and money on orthopedic doctors, physical therapists and chiropractors. On the other hand, those who are seriously training are living a healthy lifestyle. The eight defendants — described in The Star’s account as “a sturdy looking bunch despite their alleged devotion to strenuous exercise,” apparently were not.