26 September 2011

City of Chicago pushes for healthier employees

The City of Chicago is taking the health of their employees seriously. City employees who enroll in the new “wellness program” will avoid the $50 per month premium hike. The city currently pays $500 million a year for city employees' healthcare, that is 10 percent of the annual budget.

The program offers enhanced screenings and wellness training that create benchmarks and goals for each employee and their dependents. Additionally, health advisers meet with the participants bi-monthly to review medications and fitness goals.

Ironically the only city union that has not signed off on the new plan is the Fraternal Order of Police.

“Look at our membership," said president Mike Shields. "We are not the healthiest. There are people who are overweight and we have higher blood pressure than your average citizen.”

Shields is concerned that the program may backfire on those who cannot participate fully, and eventually make those people pay a higher premium.

Is this a good idea? If you look at companies that have taken this approach in the private sector, it may be. Johnson & Johnson adopted this approach and was able to reduce employee smoking by two thirds. They also cut in half the number of employees with high blood pressure. This has saved them $3 for every $1 invested.

John Himmelberger | @johnhimm
John lives in Maryland where he works as a sales manager. John and his wife Eileen’s pursuit to achieve optimum health combined with a desire to send a strong message to factory farming, inspired them to examine what they put into their bodies. Now a vegan, John has great admiration for groups like Farm Sanctuary and hopes to influence others by sharing his positive experiences. Follow John on his blog and Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/isaacsingleton