The state of Nebraska wellness program, “wellnessoptions,” became the first state program to earn the 2012 C. Everett Koop National Health Award.The award is named for Koop, a former Surgeon General of the United States.
The award requires demonstratable health improvements and cost savings, according to Gov. Dave Heineman, who announced the award Monday.
After just three years, the state of Nebraska is enjoying a $4.2 million reduction in claims, strong participation rates and high satisfaction among employees, Heineman said.
The return on investment in the program is above the industry average: For every $1 spent on the program, $2.70 is returned in health care savings (based on an independent review of claims data,) Henineman said.
As the U.S. faces the problem of rapidly rising health care costs, coupled with an epidemic increase in obesity rates, Koop Award winners demonstrate that forward thinking employers can simultaneously improve their workers’ health and reduce spending.
Nebraska launched the program in 2009, becoming one of the first states to combine wellness initiatives with health insurance coverage.
The wellness health plan features 100 percent coverage of preventive health care, lower premiums and value-based health and prescription offerings, Heineman said.
HealthFitness, a leading provider of health management services, supports the program with confidential annual health risk assessments, on-site biometric screening, health coaching and lifestyle improvement programs.
The wellness program has more than doubled the rate of participants completing preventive screenings, which enabled detection of conditions at an earlier stage, while helping participants learn about their personal health risk factors.
More than 500 cases of early-stage cancer were detected for the first time through the program, resulting in early treatment for the condition, Heineman said in the announcement.
Other health care savings include:
• Lower prescription utilization — a 3 percent reduction in 2011 among wellnessoptions enrollees as a result of improved lifestyles.
• Fewer emergency room visits.
• Fewer hospital admissions.
• Shorter hospital stays.
“The good news is that when done right, these programs not only make workers healthier, they can also produce a positive return on investment, said Dr. Ron Goetzel, president and CEO of The Health Project.
In addition to receiving the 2012 C. Everett Koop Award, the state wellness program has previously received two other national awards: the 2011 Gold Well Workplace by the Wellness Councils of America and the 2011 Innovations Award from the Council of State Governments.
C. Everett Koop award applications are independently reviewed and scored by some of the nation’s leading experts and researchers in the area of health management. Reviewers place the most scoring emphasis program evaluation and results.
The State of Nebraska is joined by only one other 2012 C. Everett Koop Award winner (L.L. Bean, Inc.) and three honorable mention programs, Heineman said.
“Our message for Nebraska businesses, schools, families, and individuals is that wellness works every time,” Heineman said. “Prevention and wellness efforts lead to healthier employees, increased productivity, better employee satisfaction and lower future health care costs.”
A recently published Wellness Council of America (WELCOA) Case Study showcases the program’s components and strategy that the State of Nebraska took to lower costs while improving the health for 13,500 employees (including retirees and COBRA participants) and 7,000 spouses.
To view the WELCOA case study about the state of Nebraska’s successful health management program, view ‘Free Resources’ at www.welcoa.org.