PLATFORM/Charging for choices
King County, Wash., next year will ask county employees to complete confidential health-risk surveys, which could save workers hundreds of dollars on health insurance and save the county millions. Employees and their spouses who want to keep their current benefits will have to follow a personal health improvement plan. Families that opt out of the survey could pay as much as $1,500 in annual medical bills with a 20 percent co-pay compared to families that fully participate, which may pay as little as $300 in deductibles and a 10 percent co-pay. American City & County asked readers of its weekly e-newsletter if they believe raising employee health care costs based on health habits is a viable method for local governments to lower health care costs. Below are some of the responses:
“Excellent idea. Yes, I believe we as government entities and health care consumers must take steps to encourage healthy behaviors.”
— Mishelle Wilcox, Benefit Manager, Topeka, Kan.
“Health prevention is always more cost effective than acute/crisis care and access to the health care system. Individual responsibility is often overlooked or taken for granted when it comes to lifestyle decisions, unhealthy habits and negative behaviors.”
— Jay Gsell, County Manager, Genesee County, N.Y.
“Either King County, Wash., doesn’t have unions or the unions are sleeping. I would expect the lawyers to start lining up to file lawsuits on the grounds of civil liberties violations that the county is trying to pry into its employees’ personal lives.”
— John Dougherty, City Administrator, Oconto Falls, Wis.
“Count me in as one who believes that raising employee health care costs based on poor health habits is a viable method for local governments to lower health care costs. Smokers, over eaters, those that don’t control their cholesterol or blood pressure, etc., all pay the same premium as those that maintain healthy lifestyles (the group rate). As a nation, we need to find ways to motivate healthy living, and placing a fiscal impact on poor health choices is a positive step.”
— Steve Peffer, Utility Services Department Assistant Director, Brevard County, Fla.