Wellsteps is the latest vendor to claim that costs can be reduced by more than 100%. Just to review the summary of this "Bialystock Rule" from Why Nobody Believes the Numbers:
(1) You cannot reduce a number by more than 100%
(2) This is true no matter how hard you try
(3) Special note for our friends Down Under: This is not one of those things that's the opposite in the Southern hemisphere.
The difference with Wellsteps is that they didn't just make up their numbers. Nosirree. They base their finding on "an exhaustive search for...published studies," which is a very high hurdle indeed, but they didn't stop there. They also "systematically reviewed these studies" and used "science-based assumptions."
And yet they still ended up concluding that reducing obesity and smoking rates could reduce costs by about 140%, though it should be noted it would take 5 years to accomplish that feat in the Wellsteps model, whereas the other members of the 100 Club usually pull it off in a year or two, probably due to the latter's lack of science-based assumptions.
Lest you think we just fiddled with the assumptions to make Wellsteps look bad, we didn't. That calculation uses the pre- and post-smoking rates that Wellsteps itself filled in on its ROI Calculator home page.
For this next one we are doing the reverse: Since obesity reduction and smoking cessation are powerful enough to reduce total spending to a negative number, it stands to reason that an obesity increase and increase in smoking would cause costs to skyrocket.
My bad! According to Wellsteps, wellness is so powerful that you can hand out cigarettes in the lobby and serve fast food three times a day...and you'll still save exactly the same -- meaning reach the same mathematically impossible negative spending level -- as if you reduced obesity and smoking. Seems like pushing buttons has as much impact on the outcome of Wellsteps ROI model, as pushing buttons does on a Fischer Price toy. And Wellsteps thinks you won't notice this and more than a toddler who plays with that toy.