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Week of September 20, 2010

University crafting plan to reward good health

Large employers across the country are looking for health plans that provide effective ways to encourage employees to stay healthy, reduce their risks and manage chronic conditions.

The premise is that more engaged, healthier employees cost less in medical care over the long run, but what’s in it for the employees? Often, they share in the financial savings by getting reduced premium rates while they improve their health.

Associate Vice President for Human Resources Laurita Thomas charged a Member Engagement Health Plan Design Committee with crafting a plan that provides these types of incentives, and it could be offered as soon as 2012.

“Monetary incentives are increasingly used to reward people who commit to maintaining good health and managing health conditions,” Thomas says. “When we work together to improve individual health, our collective health-care costs can be reduced, and that better protects our benefits package for the long term.”

Thomas says health plans with a member-engagement feature would provide a lower monthly premium for those who commit to managing and maintaining their health by completing a health-risk questionnaire, seeing their primary care physician when necessary and following the doctor’s recommendations for wellness. Those who don’t take these steps would pay more in monthly premiums than those who do.

“You would have access to the same doctors and hospitals whether you participate in the wellness aspects or not, but there would be different premiums based on how actively you choose to manage your health,” Thomas says.

The university hopes such a plan would help to reduce the most prevalent preventable health risks among university faculty and staff.

Chief Health Officer Dr. Robert Winfield says such a health plan likely would focus on some of the risks identified by the MHealthy Wellness Assessments completed by more than 22,500 employees over the last two years.

“I think we’d want to focus initially on health risks that can play a key role in the development of chronic or disabling illness,” Winfield says. “Smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes are all examples of behaviors and conditions that can contribute to significant long-term health problems when left unchecked, and there are steps we can each take to help control these.”

“We intend to design this plan keeping in mind the same guiding principles we apply across all of our plans,” Thomas says. “These include quality, affordability, choice and remaining market competitive. With a new plan, we also want to create easier, more rewarding ways for faculty and staff to be engaged in achieving and maintaining the best health possible.”

Campus feedback on the idea is invited.

“The committee is very interested in understanding the preferences of faculty and staff as they consider the possible plan design,” Thomas says. “An online survey ( is now available to gather and consolidate feedback for the committee now, before they solidify the specifics of their recommendations. I encourage faculty and staff to take the survey and use the opportunity to share suggestions and preferences for how such a plan could bring the most value to them.”



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