Pro­posal pushes healthy life­styles

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - ANDY DAVIS

Pub­lic school and state em­ploy­ees who smoke should pay higher health in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums in 2019 un­less they en­roll in a pro­gram to quit smok­ing, a com­mit­tee rec­om­mended Wednes­day.

Un­der the rec­om­men­da­tion by the State and Pub­lic School Life and Health In­sur­ance Board’s well­ness sub­com­mit­tee, em­ploy­ees also would have to com­plete an on­line ques­tion­naire about their health and sub­mit mea­sure­ments on

height, weight, blood sugar and blood pres­sure to avoid the penalty.

The state also would scrap a re­quire­ment that em­ploy­ees and their spouses visit a doc­tor at least once a year. Cur­rently, em­ploy­ees and their spouses who make such vis­its and com­plete an on­line health ques­tion­naire qual­ify for a $75 dis­count on their monthly pre­mi­ums.

“We still cover of­fice vis­its, and physi­cians can screen for these con­di­tions in their of­fice, but we’re not driv­ing every­body to have a physi­cian visit ev­ery year” un­der the rec­om­men­da­tion, said sub­com­mit­tee mem­ber Joe Thomp­son, di­rec­tor of the Arkansas Cen­ter for Health Im­prove­ment.

The sub­com­mit­tee was formed ear­lier this year to rec­om­mend changes to the health plans’ well­ness pro­gram, which is de­signed to hold down em­ploy­ees’ health care costs by en­cour­ag­ing healthy be­hav­ior.

The plans cover about 148,000 peo­ple, in­clud­ing 45,000 school em­ploy­ees and 26,000 state em­ploy­ees as well as re­tirees and the spouses and de­pen­dents of em­ploy­ees and re­tirees.

The plans have of­fered lower pre­mi­ums to em­ploy­ees who meet well­ness re­quire­ments since 2015.

About 90 per­cent of em­ploy­ees qual­i­fied for the dis­counted pre­mi­ums this year, said Chris Howlett, di­rec­tor of the state De­part­ment of Fi­nance and Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Em­ployee Ben­e­fits Divi­sion.

Hours be­fore the well­ness sub­com­mit­tee met, mem­bers of the state House and Se­nate in­sur­ance and com­merce com­mit­tees quizzed Howlett about the pro­gram.

“In gen­eral I don’t be­lieve the well­ness pro­gram is robust enough to save the plan money,” Howlett told the law­mak­ers. “I be­lieve it costs the plan money.”

Un­der the sub­com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tion, the health ques­tion­naire em­ploy­ees now fill out would be re­vamped to fo­cus more on ed­u­cat­ing em­ploy­ees about their health, rather than on col­lect­ing data.

How the state would mea­sure em­ploy­ees’ height, weight, blood pres­sure and blood sugar has yet to be de­ter­mined. Howlett said some com­pa­nies have of­fered to

visit work sites to con­duct the screen­ings, which would then be billed to the plan as a cov­ered health ben­e­fit.

The screen­ings would in­clude test­ing em­ploy­ees for tobacco use. Those who test pos­i­tive would be re­quired to en­roll in the plans’ tobacco-ces­sa­tion pro­gram to qual­ify for the pre­mium dis­count.

Em­ploy­ees would have to at­test that they plan to get a flu shot or have a med­i­cal rea­son for not get­ting a shot.

Em­ploy­ees would have to meet the re­quire­ments next year to qual­ify for the pre­mium dis­count in 2019. In fu­ture years, em­ploy­ees with a height and weight in­di­cat­ing that they are ex­tremely obese would be re­quired to en­roll in a weight­loss pro­gram.

The rec­om­men­da­tions will go to the board’s qual­ity of care com­mit­tee, ben­e­fits sub­com­mit­tee and to the full board, which will make the fi­nal de­ci­sion on the re­quire­ments.

The plans have of­fered lower pre­mi­ums to em­ploy­ees who meet well­ness re­quire­ments since 2015.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.