Remember when you were a kid and your parents saddled you with some boring as hell thing to do like mowing the lawn and when you complained they told you to try making a game out of it? Well over the past couple of years that idea has gone from being a stupid way for parents to try to get kids to do something they don’t wanna to do to being a way to motivate adults to do something they don’t wanna do. It’s called Gamification and has been used for everything from getting folks to exercise to “check in” on apps like Foursquare. Now it’s showing up on healthcare websites like United Healthcare’s Wellvibe program.
I mention this because I have UHC myself and it’s not half-bad health insurance, or at least it wasn’t until last year when the company I work for changed things so that instead of having a handful of plans to choose from we were all forced into a single high-deductible plan. I went from having a co-pay to having a $3,000 deductible and a health savings account to try and offset those out-of-pocket costs until the deductible was met. That was annoying enough, but they also introduced this Wellvibe nonsense that requires you to jump through hoops to qualify for an annual contribution from your company to your HSA.
Every year we have until September 30th to complete a number of activities on the Wellvibe website our we won’t get the company contribution to our HSA. These activities include things like watching a video to learn how to pick a Tier 1 doctor that UHC feels offers excellent service at the best price. My doctor is not considered a Tier 1 doctor because, while she is considered to offer excellent healthcare, apparently she costs UHC too much money. The problem is I’ve gone to the same doctor for over 15 years and I trust her decision making so I’m not going to switch unless I absolutely have to. Luckily, I don’t (she’s still considered in-plan), but that won’t stop UHC from making me go through an activity pointing out she’s not what they consider to be the best value.
They also have a system in place on their website that helps you to find the cheapest applicable drugs for whatever is it your doctor has prescribed. My doctor already tries to make sure we’re taking the generic equivalent of whatever it is she thinks we need so that part of the site is of limited use to me, but I still have to watch the stupid video each year and answer a bunch of questions about it with multiple choice answers. I never watch the videos because the right answer is so blindingly obvious that you’d have to be an idiot to not be able to figure it out just based on the choices in front of you. I hit play and then race through the questions and get it right before the video has a chance to get past the cheesy porno-music opening.
There’s also a health profile you have to fill out where you have to get a UHC Annual Biometric Checkup done. You print out a form and take it to your doctor and they run blood tests and report your sugar levels, cholesterol, etc. and stamp it with an Official Doctor Seal and you send it back. You cannot fill this form out yourself. Then there is a redundant Health Assessment form you have to fill out that asks for the SAME FUCKING MEASUREMENTS YOUR DOCTOR FILLED OUT ON THE OTHER FORM. I can only assume they’re checking to see if you’re lying about the condition of your health.
All of that is annoying and insulting enough as it is, but this year they’ve tried to Gamify the entire process by putting in an Xbox-style achievement system where you can earn badges and “leaves.” Logging into the site for the first time since last year when I completed the previous activities, I got a popup announcing I had earned a “Here I am!” badge and 10 leaves for completing registration, logging into, and visiting the Wellvibe homepage.
I boggled at it not sure what the hell it was, but I went ahead and did one of the activities and got this badge as a result:
Holy shit! You did something! HAVE A FUCKING COOKIE!
That’s when it dawned on me they were trying to make it into a game of sorts. Oh joy. It’s not enough that they insist on holding my hand when I didn’t need their help before, but now they want to give me meaningless rewards for grudgingly complying with their stupid requirements. I got another badge by accident when I checked my profile and saw that I didn’t have a phone number listed. It was the much-coveted “THIS IS ME!” badge earned for updating your account profile and granting 10 more leaves.
If you poke around long enough you eventually will find the “Wellville” page where you can see all the badges you have earned along with those you still haven’t acquired. It’s here where you finally found out why you’ve been earning “leaves” with your badges. It’s for your Health Tree! The more leaves you earn, the healthier your tree becomes! Isn’t that amazing?
“Badges?? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!!”
As you can see, my tree is in pretty piss-poor health at 14%. Some of the other things you can do to earn a badge include: Complete your first Optional Activity (if it’s optional, I’m not going to do it), print out your first “bar code scan form activity”, email your “bar code activity” (which I did last year and it nearly cost me my company’s HSA contribution because it didn’t work right), login once a week for 3 months straight (that’s so not going to happen), and — I shit you not — reset your login password. That last one is called: “I FORGOT, BUT IT’S OK!”
Fuck you, United Healthcare. Seriously. It was bad enough having to do all this bullshit for my company to put $500 into my HSA every year, but now you’re insulting my intelligence. I will never have my tree to 100% because I will not do any more of the activities on your website than I absolutely have to in order to qualify for the employer contribution. This is the sort of bullshit that if I had any reasonable alternatives I’d probably be dropping you like a hot potato. Lucky for you my company doesn’t offer any alternatives and what they do offer is considered good enough that it would cost me more to go through something like Obamacare.
Needless to say, I don’t appreciate you trying to turn my healthcare into some sort of game.