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April 6, 2009, 9:30 a.m. CT 


Ashley Cradduck, Gov’s Office



Governor Announces New Wellness Plan for State Government

(Lincoln, Neb.)  Gov. Dave Heineman outlined a wellness program for state employees and the option to choose a health insurance plan offering better coverage for preventative health and wellness. Nebraska is one of the first states to offer state workers a comprehensive plan for health insurance designed to encourage wellness and healthy lifestyles.

“We wanted to find a wellness plan and an insurance package that could help employees make choices that help workers live a healthier life,” Gov. Heineman said. “We want to provide our workforce the opportunity to be healthier and to better manage the health care they receive.”

The state has contracted with HealthFitness Corp., which works with Fortune 500 companies to provide employees with services that improve health and productivity. The wellness program is connected to a wellness-oriented health insurance plan offering full coverage for annual exams and basic health screenings. The Wellness PPO plan offers lower insurance premiums than most of the insurance plans available to state workers.

Carlos Castillo, Director of the Nebraska Department of Administrative Services, said, “WellnessOptions will have a strong focus on education and preventative care. Employee participation is completely voluntary and puts a high priority on protecting employee privacy. The wellness health insurance plan provides incentive for employees to enroll by offering lower premiums and covering the cost of several preventative screenings 100 percent. Over time we hope to slow the increase in health insurance rates for employees and the state.”

In the first year, state employees signing up for the Wellness PPO plan will be eligible for lower premiums and better coverage for certain screenings by first completing a health risk assessment. The survey covers individual health and lifestyle factors such as current medical conditions and medications, height and weight, and family history and activity. Based on survey responses, HealthFitness will recommend coaching education programs to help improve general wellness, lower health risk factors and improve management of existing chronic conditions.

Survey responses will only be reviewed by HealthFitness. Individual data will not be reported to the State of Nebraska or the state’s insurance provider. Information will only be reported in aggregate to help determine the success of the program.

In subsequent years, state employees and their covered spouses can enroll in the Wellness PPO plan and receive lower insurance premiums by completing the health assessment, basic biometric screenings and participating in coaching and education programs.

Coaching programs help participants lead a healthier lifestyle by focusing on a specific wellness goal. Programs help increase physical activity, provide tips for healthy eating, help with smoking cessation, and stress management. Programs are also available to provide information that can help manage chronic conditions including asthma, diabetes, heart and circulatory-related diseases, musculoskeletal issues, back pain, and other conditions. 

Premiums for the Wellness PPO plan will be lower than the costs of other insurance plans, with 100 percent coverage offered on annual exams, well baby exams, immunizations, and health screenings including: mammograms, pap smears, colonoscopies, prostate cancer and diabetes vision screenings.          

Gov. Heineman said, “Most insurance plans don’t extend much coverage for regular check-ups and preventative screenings. We wanted to build a plan that would reward employees for maintaining their health and provide an easy way for all employees to get the education that can help them lead healthier, more productive lives.” 

Employees not able to enroll in the Wellness PPO plan, or who choose other health insurance programs, will still have the option of participating in the Wellness Options program offered by HealthFitness.

Research indicates that improving employee health results in substantial savings in health care costs and improved productivity. The National Coalition on Health Care says $2.4 trillion was spent on health care in the U.S. in 2008, representing 17 percent of the gross domestic product. U.S. health costs are projected to increase to $3.1 trillion by 2012.


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