County considers adding ‘wellness’ program to plan

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By Tia Lyn Lacorchick staff writer

The Morgan County Board of Commissioners (BOC) is currently considering a proposal for a county employee wellness program. County Manager Michael Lamar presented the proposal at the March 18 BOC meeting.

Over the past few weeks, Lamar and other county representatives met with the Morgan County Health Department and the county’s insurance broker, Northwester Mutual to research the possibility of establishing an employee wellness program.

“The two-pronged goal of a wellness program is to improve the health of our employees and potentially reduce the county’s health care cost…” said Lamar. “We are trying to get a healthier workforce without spending a lot of money. If you have a healthy workforce, it’s better for everyone.” BOC member Ellen Warren spoke in favor of the proposal.

“If we have the ability to help our employees be cognizant of what they are dealing healthwise and to get what they need at a better rate, the better off we all are,” said Warren. Lamar hopes to negotiate a contract with the health department to provide comprehensive health screening for every health insurance eligible county employee.

These screenings would include comprehensive blood work, blood pressure testing, and Body Mass Index (BMI) analysis, for a cost that would not exceed more than $38 per employee. The health department would also provide individualized consultations and classes to advise patients on how to improve and manage their health. “Only $38 per person is a significant amount of savings for people.

These tests can be quite expensive,” said Lamar. Lamar proposed, for the first year, that the program would be voluntary, but any employee who chooses not to participate in the program would have to contribute an extra $10 per month toward their health insurance.

For year two, Lamar proposed the program become mandatory and establish a “results-based” policy to determine the cost of healthcare for individual employees. Lamar explained that if treatable and reversible health problems, such as obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, persist, and employees do not take measures to become healthier, then it could increase the cost of health insurance.

“The idea is for those who cost the most to pay the most,” said Lamar, “The hope is to identify potential illnesses before they become full blown.” The BOC has not rendered a decision concerning the wellness program proposal yet, but BOC Chairman Andy Ainslie said the board would revisit the matter soon.

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