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Incentives boost Colorado state workers' participation in health program


Nearly one-third of Colorado's 30,000 state employees have signed up to participate in a new statewide wellness and health promotion program that uses financial incentives to boost employee engagement.

In addition, more than 5,000 employees completed a health risk assessment this year compared with "a couple hundred" last year, a state spokesman said Friday.

The participation-based population health management program provided by Denver-based Welltok Inc. is the first to be made available to all of the state's employees, said Nate Sassano, Denver-based statewide wellness coordinator.

Welltok's Internet-based CafeWell health optimization platform provides a variety of health activities, personalized incentives for participation and access to valuable resources, including health coaching, he said.

“Certain divisions like the Colorado Department of Transportation and Public Health had done some things on their own, but prior to this, there wasn't much in place statewide,” Mr. Sassano said.

Under the program, which was officially launched July 1, employees who complete a health risk assessment earn up to $10 a month toward their premium contribution to their health insurance coverage. They earn an additional $10 if they also participate in certain wellness activities such as smoking-cessation, improved nutrition or hydration, exercise and stress management, Mr. Sassano said. In addition, the first 1,000 employees who joined the walking program received free pedometers.

While the incentives may not seem like much, it more than covers the $19.28 single monthly premium contribution paid by state employees who are enrolled in a high-deductible plan underwritten by Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente, Mr. Sassano said.

The state offers four health plan options: a health savings account-qualified high-deductible health maintenance organization plan underwritten by Kaiser; a traditional HMO, also underwritten by Kaiser; a self-insured HDHP with an HSA administered by UnitedHealthcare, a unit of Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth Group Inc.; and a self-insured preferred provider organization plan administered by the health insurer.

About half of the state employees are enrolled in one of the two fully insured plans, with the remainder enrolled in one of two self-insured health benefit plans, Mr. Sassano said.

Although the program has been in place only four months, Mr. Sassano said the state already is seeing some improvement in the health of participants, which he hopes will eventually translate into savings on health care costs.

“As one of the largest employers in the state, we have a unique opportunity to improve the health of state employees and lead the way as a wellness-focused employer,” Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “The ultimate goal of the program is to be a leader in helping support work environments across the state, including our own, to be conducive to choosing healthy behaviors.”


To that end, the state is gathering data derived from the health risk assessments, program participation and completion to direct future wellness initiatives, Mr. Sassano said.

“It's about gathering the data to make sure we are a data-driven organization,” he said.

Initial data shows that state employees are “a little less healthy” than state residents as a whole, said Mr. Sassano, who attributed the discrepancy to the fact that many state workers are older and hold sedentary jobs. Among the most prevalent health risks identified by analyzing the initial health risk assessment data were cardiac conditions, obesity and stress.

“A lot of our employees are reporting that they're dealing with stress quite a bit,” he said.