Adam OrrStaff Writeraorr@jeffersonpost.com
July 18, 2012
Ashe County Government is partnering with Blue Cross Blue Shield to determine health risks county employees face, how to lower them, and hopefully save county taxpayers money in the process.
“Blue Cross told us we could run a health and wellness program that would help our premiums,” said Ashe County Manager Pat Mitchell. “If we run this program, and enough of our employees participate, we can get credit towards lowering our premiums for next year.”
The program works like this - county employees participate in an initial online health assessment that helps them determine risk factors for various ailments, and what they need to do to lower that risk.
“The initial part is to do an online health assessment,” said Mitchell. “It asks a series of questions. ‘Do you drink or smoke? What do you weigh?’ It helps BCBS get an accurate picture of where an employee is.”
Each month, county employees will be offered different promotional activities and incentives designed to help them pay attention to their health.
“Fully 80 percent of our claims are based on lifestyle conditions,” said Blue Cross Blue Shield Client Engagement Representative Annemarie Rosas. “So we have a vested interest in help North Carolinians live healthier lives.”
According to Rosas, BCBS works with employers across the state to improve employee wellness through health assessments and biometric screenings.
“We award employers that are being proactive, who work to help employees know exactly what their health risks are,” said Rosas.
Rosas said, in the future, BCBS would work with Ashe County Government to determine what risk factors it would like to lower in employees.
“We may work on obesity or overweight issues, or smoking cessation or stress management,” said Rosas. “We’re working on different programs to combat different risks.”
Rosas said many employers across the state are working with BCBS to strategize the best ways to ensure healthier employees, and lower premium costs, at the same time.
“It all really depends on where the employer wants to take the program,” said Rosas. “Each year, we’ll work with Ashe (County Government) to identify what they want to improve. I think Ashe has already determined that they want to strategize its plan based on smoking and non-smoking.”
Mitchell said the program is a good financial decision on the part of Ashe County.
“If we can run a program that brings to someone’s attention something they need to change in their lifestyle, that’s great,” said Mitchell. “Blue Cross has definitely convinced me of that. But, from my standpoint as manager, if this can save the county money, I think we need to pay attention to that.”