More Mythbusting from the Incidental Economist

Published December 2, 2014

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of the blog The Incidental Economist, run by Dr. Aaron Carroll and economist Austin Frakt, which focuses on health care policy. As I tell people, they’re frequently wrong but always insightful. Which probably isn’t totally fair – they’re often right on the smaller details, it’s just when they get to the bigger picture where they tend to fall apart (they’re both enthusiastic supporters Dr. Aaron Carroll is a backer of state-run health care, as near as I can tell, including single-payer and other flavors of non-market medicine).**

Today’s blog post from Frakt, Workplace Wellness Programs Don’t Save Money is excellent, as usual, and addresses one of the oft-heard myths of health care. Here’s the conclusion:

Now maybe Lewis et al. and TIE bloggers are wrong about wellness programs. Maybe they can save money. That’d be fine, if true. What we want, though, is evidence, not claims from industry studies based on study designs that cannot produce valid causal estimates without heroic assumptions. Show us the credible evidence and we’ll sing a different tune. Until then, so far, wellness programs look like a cost loser.

It’s a short post, so it should only take a few minutes to read and digest, and is well worth the time. And then it’s worth pondering that, although this specific post is in relation to wellness programs provided by employers, one of the central tenets of most advocates for greater government control of health care is that wellness programs are vital to reducing health care costs.

** Correction/Clarification – Austin Frakt contacted me to let me know he is not, in fact, a supporter of single-payer health care, nor is he an opponent. Dr. Aaron Carroll is, however, at least according to this interview on the Colbert Report roughly five years ago. My apologies for the error. SP