Administration launches state employee wellness program

Advocate staff photo by MARSHA SHULER -- Bud Thompson, head of the state Office of Risk Management, sits down Friday with Ashley Pugh to begin a wellness screening exam, part of the Office of Group Benefits new program for state employees, retirees and dependents. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by MARSHA SHULER -- Bud Thompson, head of the state Office of Risk Management, sits down Friday with Ashley Pugh to begin a wellness screening exam, part of the Office of Group Benefits new program for state employees, retirees and dependents.

The Jindal administration on Friday launched a state employee wellness initiative aimed at reducing the state health insurance program’s costs.

The program brings health screenings and wellness screenings to employees where they work as well as preventive and follow-up care. It is part of a plan to bring financial stability to Group Benefits, a program that covers some 250,000 state employees, retirees and their dependents.

To encourage participation, Group Benefits will offer a premium reduction to those who complete an online health assessment and a wellness checkup within one year, Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said. How much the discount will be has not yet been determined.

A more than $500 million reserve fund a little more than two years ago is projected to be down to $55 million by the end of December if nothing happens.

The administration is making changes and officials have assured that the program will be stabilized before program reserves dip that low. The changes include a 5 percent premium increase effective July 1 and changes in benefits coming Aug. 1, including preauthorization required of certain medical services and a push for generic drugs.

Legislative Auditor Daryl Purpera has projected that the savings won’t be sufficient to stop a drain on program reserves.

Nichols, state Group Benefits CEO Susan West, state Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Kathy Kliebert and other state agency heads lined up to get a variety of medical tests after a news conference announcing the start of “Live Better Louisiana.”

Medical techs tested for cholesterol, glucose levels, liver function, blood pressure and BMI in a clinic set up in the Thomas Jefferson Room of the Claiborne Building in Baton Rouge.

The results will be reviewed on site with participants making them aware of potential risk factors related to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. Members diagnosed with medical conditions will be referred their primary care physician and to Group Benefit’s disease management program if applicable.

“These clinics are a great way of knowing your medical numbers that are critical to making changes in your life,” West said. “It’s about empowering people through education.”

She said program administrator Blue Cross Blue Shield will also offer webinars for members on various aspects of health care.

Nichols said only 27 percent of Group Benefits members got a physical last year.

“It’s critical that we make it easy for people to be engaged with their healthcare,” she said.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter @MarshaShulerCNB. For more coverage of the State Capitol, follow Louisiana Politics at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politics blog/.