Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman

Nebraska Workers Embrace Wellness Program

The new WellnessOptions program offered as part of the state employee benefits package has enrolled 26 percent of the state's workers, exceeding the 20 percent goal, Gov. Dave Heineman announced.

Twenty-six percent of Nebraska's state workers have enrolled in a new wellness plan offered as part of the state's employee benefits package this year, Gov. Dave Heineman announced June 18. Heineman kicked off the program in April 2009. His office says Nebraska is believed to be the first state to offer state workers a comprehensive health insurance plan designed to encourage wellness and healthy lifestyles.

"We set an aggressive goal in this first year and we exceeded it," Heineman said. "The response from state employees has been outstanding. This is a partnership. I want to thank everyone who signed up. We want to create a culture of wellness in our workforce, and we're off to a good start. More employees leading a healthier lifestyle will increase productivity, which is good for employees, good for state government, and for those we serve."

The goal was 20 percent enrollment; new wellness plans typically enroll less than 10 percent in the first year. Nebraska's plan combines medical insurance plan covering yearly checkups and many preventative screenings with WellnessOptions, a workplace wellness program managed by HealthFitness Corp. Only HealthFitness sees the workers' survey responses; their individual data are not reported to the state or its insurance provider.

Heineman's office said 3,594 workers initially enrolled in the Wellness PPO plan. This year, the only requirement for employees choosing the Wellness PPO plan is to complete a health assessment. Those who choose another health insurance plan have the option of taking part in WellnessOptions, and as of June 18, 681 employees had done so and completed the health assessment.

HealthFitness recommends coaching programs where participants work one-on-one with a coach to improve general wellness, lower health risk factors, or manage existing chronic conditions. Completing a coaching program is one of the available options to qualify for enrollment in the Wellness PPO in the next plan year, and 1,782 employees had enrolled in one of 20 available focus areas by June 18.

"We're pleased with the initial response and feedback we've received from employees," said Carlos Castillo, director of the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services. "We hope to build on this so that, over time, our state workforce will be healthier and we can begin to slow the increase in health insurance costs for employees and the state."

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