Chesterton Tribune

Commissioners approve enhanced insurance and wellness programs for county workers

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The Porter County Board of Commissioners cheered for good health Tuesday as they renewed employee health insurance contracts with county insurance provider Anton Insurance. They also approved an additional Healthy Benefits program that will save employees money on doctor visits and provide seminars for county employees to live healthier lifestyles such as nutrition options and kicking smoking habits.

Commissioners John Evans, R-North, and Carole Knoblock, D-South, voted to approve a number of contracts consisting of a renewal contract from Union Labor Life Insurance Company, a 3rd Party Agreement Contract with Stewart C. Miller, and privacy agreements with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act with insurance providers Anton Insurance and Stewart C. Miller.

County Insurance Provider Mike Anton said county employees made a total of 14,239 claims in 2009. The plan cost projection for the county employee premiums have increased by 16 percent this year but will probably not reach the increase because the county has been under its estimated costs over the past few years. The raise however covers the cost for the enhanced wellness programs provided by HealtheACCESS Clinics, LLC, formally known as Hoosier Healthcare.

The Wellness program, which experienced upgrades in January, will now include a healthy awards initiative program targeting employees and family members who are at risk for disease. The plan provides several initiatives for employees including unlimited access to HealtheACCESS clinical facilities at no extra cost said HealtheACCESS President Don Kiger. The firm has three facilities in Porter County, two in Valparaiso and one in Portage.

One other benefit with the plan is up to two free health screenings during the year. Leigh Westergren, employee health insurance specialist at Anton Insurance, said this year’s Porter County employee screening in January brought in nearly 225 participants, more than twice those screened in 2009. The seminar did find that 22 percent of employees are at high risk for disease and about half at moderate risk.

The wellness plan requires the county to pay a monthly flat rate of $20 for each employee or $40 for employees and dependent family members. Those covered will see lowered medical costs when they visit one of the HealtheACCESS clinics and will be able to see large discounts compared to visiting their family doctor or the emergency room. The county will also be able to save money as deductibles are included in the plan. Westergren said with the current enrollment, the county cost is estimated at $225,000 for the year.

Anton Insurance will also be holding future seminar luncheons for county employees at various times throughout the year. Westergren said seminars will be held in March for Tobacco Prevention education. Participants will be eligible to continue in a program to help them overcome addiction to smoking. Future seminars will be given with assistance from the Porter County Purdue Extension Office and the Porter County Parks Department, including seminars focusing on nutrition and fitness and controlling diabetes. Later in the year, the group will also look at ways to improve mental health and ways to cope with stress.

Anton Insurance will also be developing a wellness webpage featuring a “fountain of information” for healthy living. Westergren said the overall goal for these wellness programs is predominantly to educate and provide ways to prevent health problems.

Porter County Information Technologies and Service Department Director Sharon Lippens on Tuesday said she recently had a “very good experience” with Healthy Access when she visited one of the facilities with her children and was also able to save money in pharmacy expenses. The HealtheACCESS plan is able to provide discounts through an exclusive agreement with Fagen Pharmacy.

Westergren said the plan has been well received but some still may choose to find their own means of receiving medical care. She hopes more county employees will make use of the plan as “word-of-mouth” gets around. The county commissioners approved the plans with confidence that the plan will be a benefit to the county.

“I think we are doing a great service,” said Evans.



Posted 3/4/2010