Gov. Dave Heineman announced today the state wellness program has received national recognition.
“I am very happy to announce that the state of Nebraska has become the first state in the United States to earn the prestigious C. Everett Koop National Health Award,” Heineman stated during a news conference in his office. “This national wellness award has the most stringent requirements for demonstrating health improvements and cost savings.”
In the three years of the wellness program, Nebraska has seen a $4.2 million reduction in health claims.
State Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joann Schaefer said the program has changed attitudes among state workers.
“It’s about a culture change and encouraging people to take the stairs,” according to Schaefer. “So, we focused on changing the culture and trying to make ‘healthy’ the default choice, instead of ‘unhealthy’ the default choice and encouragement.”
Heineman even joked about how many state workers have taken up the challenge of getting out of their offices to walk inside and outside the Capitol.
“You know, I’m usually here by 7 o’clock in the morning and there are already people walking,” Heineman said. “You take a break around 9:30 or 10 or 10:30 you’re likely to get run over in this building. I’m sure the same is true over in the Nebraska State Office Building. That’s good news.”
A financial incentive doesn’t hurt.
Administrative Services Director Carlos Castillo said state workers can save money by participating, because incentives are built into the program.
“You might pay a lower co-pay for certain features, but also premiums are a huge driver, because the premium cost is lower in the wellness program,” Castillo said. “And so I think that couple with we do a better job communicating with folks now that are enrolled in the wellness program. All of those things together are a package that really helps drive our success in the program.”
The state reported that for every dollar spent on the program, $2.70 returns in health care savings, above the industry average.
AUDIO: Gov. Dave Heineman hosts news conference with Dr. Schaefer and Director Castillo [10:30]