County institutes biometrics in health plan
Summit County has taken a step forward in both saving its employees money and making them healthier with the introduction of its new biometrics standards as part of its health insurance program.
Biometrics includes measurements of waist circumference, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and a yes/no indicator of tobacco use. Summit County Personnel Director Brian Bellamy said the program has been a success already and has made many county employees more conscious of their health.
"We’re trying to create a healthier lifestyle for our employees," Bellamy said. "If there’s something wrong, we want them to take care of it."
Employees must meet three of the five biometrics standards to avoid a cost increase. If they use tobacco, their rate goes up by five percent, as it also does if they fail to meet three of the five biometrics, the standards for which are:
Summit County Office Manager Annette Singleton said she thinks the biometrics standards are "great," adding that they cause employees to be more health-conscious while saving the county money.
"If I was a person who had super high blood pressure and didn’t know it, by your workplace encouraging you to know that, I think that’s a really good thing that you might not otherwise go and do," Singleton said.
Bellamy said he hopes the biometrics standards encourage those employees who may have outstanding but unknown medical issues to seek medical care. If an employee who uses tobacco completes and passes a tobacco cessation course, the five percent rate increase is waived, as is it for those who participate in a wellness program if they fail to meet three of the standards.
"If we can catch high blood pressure today and help de-stress your life or get you on medication, it’s going to decrease your risk of a stroke in the future," Bellamy said, adding the biometrics are geared toward "correcting behavior."
In 2014, a flu shot will be included in the biometrics, as will the ability to add a spouse to the plan. In 2015, Bellamy said employees’ children 18 and older can be added to the plan and would also be subject to the biometrics standards.
Singleton said she took a large pay cut to come and work at the county because of the benefits of their health plan. She said she is glad she can "keep everything in check" related to her health because of the plan.
"Some people need that little urging to go and [get a check-up]," Singleton said. "I think it’s great. It’s like we’re all looking out for each other."
Bellamy said biometrics standards will help to control healthcare costs in the future. Premium increases for the county were at 2.7 percent, well below trends he said he has seen of nine to ten percent. Of all county employees, 96 percent participated in the biometric screening, he said.
"We want [our employees], when they retire, to have a great life," Bellamy said. "Biometrics will make healthier and happier employees."
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