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New State Wellness Program

By Governor Dave Heineman

June 19, 2009

Dear Fellow Nebraskans:

We spend a significant amount of time at work each week and the office is increasingly a good place to provide the education and the tools that help each of us develop healthier daily routines. Workplace prevention and wellness efforts have been shown to positively impact productivity and job satisfaction.

Last year, we began a program recognizing Nebraska employers that promote wellness. This year, state government is beginning a wellness program to help our workforce lead by example by encouraging state employees to take part in a new wellness plan offered as part of the state benefits package.

We wanted to build a plan that would reward employees for maintaining their health and provide an easy way for all employees to obtain the education that can help them lead healthier, more productive lives.

We set an aggressive goal of 20 percent enrollment in this first year and we exceeded it with 26 percent of employees signing up. The team developing our wellness program worked extensively with Nebraska businesses that had developed their own workplace wellness programs. Many employers and others in this industry indicated initial enrollment figures of approximately 10 percent are common for new programs.

What sets our plan apart from those of other states is pairing a comprehensive health insurance plan designed to encourage wellness and healthy lifestyles with a wellness program, known as WellnessOptions and managed by HealthFitness Corp. They work with Fortune 500 companies to provide services that improve employee health and productivity.

The Wellness PPO plan insurance provides 100 percent coverage for yearly checkups, immunizations and many preventative screenings for both men and women. A total of 3,594 workers initially enrolled in the plan, which also offered lower insurance premiums than most of the insurance plans available to state workers.

This year, the only requirement for employees enrolled in the Wellness PPO plan is to complete the health survey that is part of WellnessOptions. Those who choose another health insurance plan have the option of taking part in WellnessOptions, and so far an additional 681 employees have completed the survey.

Based on individual survey responses, HealthFitness recommends coaching programs that help employees work one-on-one with a coach to improve their general wellness, lower certain health risk factors or better manage an existing chronic condition. Completing one of 20 available coaching programs is one of the ways for employees to qualify for enrollment in the Wellness PPO in the next plan year.

The response from state employees has been outstanding. Research indicates that improving employee health can result in health care cost savings and improved productivity. The experience of other Nebraska employers tells us that the key to achieving those long-term gains is consistent participation and improvement. Wellness is a partnership.

We want to create a culture of wellness in state offices. Having more of our workforce leading healthier lifestyles will increase productivity, which is good for employees, good for state government and for the people we serve.

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