Wellness initiative participation growing

In the month since the launch of Penn State's Take Care of Your Health initiative, roughly 7,900 employees have either completed or scheduled the biometric screening, and about 6,300 have completed the wellness profile.

"We are very happy to see the participation rates continuing to climb," said Susan Basso, vice president for Human Resources. "I want to emphasize that while a major motivating factor in our health plan changes is cost-savings, equally important to us is the health and well-being of our employees. Good health care is more than paying for illness and treating symptoms. Good health care includes the prevention and management of modifiable risk factors. The wellness profile and biometric screenings create awareness for the employee of potential medical risks, and when you know about your risks you are empowered to address them to keep yourself healthy. Many risk factors, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol, have no symptoms and can't be detected without a screening, but knowing about them and getting them under control helps to avoid major health problems down the road."

Employees who are engaged in their health care, including wellness, cost less to cover, mainly because reducing the prevalence of chronic disease and uncovering hidden risk saves money in the long run.

"We know costs are going to increase during the first year of this new program because of the testing and physical exam costs, but the savings will start to become evident down the road." A Highmark study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion demonstrated its wellness programs reduce the rate of health care costs. In addition, a rigorous study independently conducted by Ron Goetzel of Emory University demonstrated a return on investment $1.65 per every $1 invested by Highmark. All expenses of program delivery were deducted from the savings in this conservative, matched control group experimental design.

"We understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint," Basso said.

The wellness profile and biometric screening information is, and will remain, private. WebMD Health Services, which developed and is administering the wellness profile through Highmark Blue Shield, is bound by Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy and security laws. Penn State will not -- and by federal health privacy law, cannot -- have access to individual employee health records. "We will never ask for an employee’s health records and will not charge an employee additional fees based on their individual health status," Basso said.

For more information about the Take Care of Your Health initiative, visit http://ohr.psu.edu/benefits/benefits-enrollment/ and read the FAQ at http://ohr.psu.edu/assets/benefits/documents/TakeCareOfHealthFAQs.pdf online. Additional information can be found at http://news.psu.edu/tag/health-care-initiative on the Penn State News website.

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Last Updated August 23, 2013