Penn State Employee Wellness Program Causes Controversy - KMSP-TV

Penn State Employee Wellness Program Causes Controversy

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HARRISBURG, Pa. -

Some are calling this the other Penn State scandal.

The university's 40,000 employees have been told they must answer an online questionnaire as part of a school wellness program or have 100 dollars withheld from their paychecks every month.

"The most troubling part of the survey is when it gets into personal information," says Matthew Woessner, a Penn State associate professor.

Penn State professor Matthew Woessner says that the survey goes too far. It asks not just about height and weight, but also inquires about personal ailments, feelings of depression and use of tobacco.

One question reads: "have you had five or more alcoholic drinks in a single sitting in the last six months?"

Men are also asked: "do you do a monthly testicular self exam?"

The school says all information is confidential, but critics aren't so sure and worry about hacking and other forms of disclosure. Professor Woessner says his solution is civil disobedience.

"My suggestion is that Penn State employees dutifully fill out their profiles and fill it in with junk. So, for example, in my profile I am 3 feet 8 inches tall and weigh 50 pounds," shares Professor Woessner.

The school, which declined an interview, says that the questionnaire is part of a broader wellness program, including a physical exam. The purpose is to lower the cost of employee health care. But some health care experts argue that what Penn State is doing often costs more money than it saves.

One of these experts is Al Lewis, the author of "Cracking Health Costs."

"This is not Penn state doing this to their employees for their own good, this is Penn State doing this to their employees for their own bad. Because, in fact, if employees do what Penn State wants them to do and go out and get all this medical care, screens and testing, their costs will skyrocket," says Lewis.

Lewis says programs like the one at Penn State cost about 300 dollars a year per employee to administer. A recent study shows that after 4 years, the annual savings on health care costs per employee is about 130 dollars.

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