The Wellness Plan—Looking Ahead

Building a Culture of Wellness

With a little more than a month to go before the June 30 deadline to earn a $600 discount on UA Choice health plans—up to $1,200 if your spouse or financially interdependent partner (FIP) also participates— more than 1,600 plan members have completed their Personal Health Assessment at Healthyroads.com and more than 800 have submitted biometric readings through a health care provider form or Quest Diagnostic services to qualify for the rebate. (Due to a lag of up to three weeks for processing not all biometric data has been officially received by Healthyroads even though it was submitted.)

It was estimated that 70 percent of employees and 50 percent of spouses or FIPs on the plan will take the steps to qualify for the rebate this year. By that estimation, an additional 2,100 members will fulfill these requirements in the remaining time.

But what about next year?

This year is only the first step in phasing in a comprehensive outcomes-based wellness program. Beginning in 2015, additional actions will be added and participants will need to accumulate points that will determine their eligibility for the discount. Submitting biometrics will be weighted heavily and additional actions such as receiving a wellness checkup, getting a flu shot, dental examination, completing the health risk assessment, non-tobacco use or completing a tobacco cessation program will each have a point value. Combined, they will determine eligibility for the discount.

The Joint Health Care Committee is working on finalizing a streamlined list of healthy behaviors that will qualify for points toward the discount. Staff Health Care Committee recommendations regarding qualifications and standards also will be brought to the attention of the Joint Health Care Committee and the administration.

After that, it’s real numbers.

The following year, 2016, UA will implement an outcomes-based strategy focused on specific biometric standards. Based on best practices for wellness plans, biometric standards for men and women for HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, waist circumference, blood pressure and fasting glucose, will be used to determine preferred pricing.  

These factors are important health indicators for our biggest health risks including stress, heart disease, diabetes and other chronic conditions. Employees and their spouses who meet three out of five measures, or alternative standards or waivers, will qualify for preferred pricing. A hybrid system of eligibility, combining biometric standards and healthful activities is also being discussed.

Proposed biometric standards to be implemented in 2016 subject to final approval.

Alternative Standards and Waivers

Federal law mandates that reasonable alternative standards or waivers must be available to accommodate those with health factors precluding participation in the initial standard. Those alternative standards are determined on an individual basis under the direction of your physican.

One of the reasons that Healthyroads was selected as UA’s wellness vendor is their experience managing wellness plans such as ours. They are fully accredited in comprehensive wellness, disease management, and health web site by URAC—an independent, non-profit heath utilization review and accreditation service— having undergone a rigorous examination of their systems, processes and performance to ensure it is conducting business in a manner that meets national standards including privacy and security.

Healthyroads’ slogan “We Meet You Where You Are” highlights their approach. The goal is to help people make positive changes in their life to achieve greater health, maintain their health, manage stress and enjoy greater well being. It rewards participation in the wellness plan, provides support to high risk individuals, and promotes a healthier population which in turn has a positive influence on health care costs.

There is no way to be automatically disqualified from the opportunity to earn the rebates. Tobacco users may still qualify by completing a cessation program—covered in full by UA (including the cost of gums, patches, lozenges or other quit aids)—or by meeting the other biometric measures. Individuals who are overweight, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other out-of-range biometric measurements will be rewarded by being engaged in the wellness program and making improvements to their health. Even those who are already very fit can benefit from resources on Healthyroads to manage stress, build strength and endurance, reach new goals and maintain their good health.

On every communication from Healthyroads it reads: “everybody needs a coach.” All of us, from the super-fit to the fitness challenged have room in our lives for positive improvement. The University of Alaska is providing us with valuable resources to make those changes. Start taking those steps today and they will pay you back now and into the future.

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