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Wood County Executive Committee looks at health benefits and wages – jj
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Wood County Executive Committee looks at health benefits and wages

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By City Times staff

WISCONSIN RAPIDS – The Wood County Executive Committee is taking a hard look at the county’s Wellness program and its affect on insurance cost, while it contracts for a study into county wages.

“The executive committee voted 4-3 to immediately disband the Wellness board and have the Wellness director report to the executive committee, and (have the human resources) director do an in-depth study of the Wellness program,” County Board Chairman Doug Machon said. “(With) the Wellness program, there has been some concern on the return of investment there. There have been some studies done nationwide, as far as the effectiveness of Wellness programs and whether they are worth their cost.”

Machon said that the county’s Wellness program costs somewhere around $400,000 a year and that it is difficult to quantify the returns.

“One of the questions I had – we were offering incentives to our employees and some of those incentives were probably very soft,” Mahon stated. “It could be that an employee that is smoking could qualify for a $100 premium subsidy on their health insurance by going to a one-time coaching session with the health advisor. (The advisor) could say, ‘You should really quit smoking because you could die from lung cancer. This is what you could do to quit smoking; here are some patches if you want. See you later.’ (The employee) takes his $100 and goes out on the sidewalk at break time and smokes, until next year when it is time to go… That was the perception.

“It just basically begged the question, ‘Let’s take a look take a look at what we are going here with our money. Are we being effective? Are we spending it effectively?’

“Is our Wellness program saving us $50,000; is it savings us $100,000; is it saving us anything? We need to know.”

Machon said that the per employee healthcare cost, including post employment insurance compensation, administrative, stop loss insurance, the Wellness program, and the entire cost per person budgeted for this year was $18,536. This is projected to go up to $20,431 in 2020 –$300 per person goes to the Wellness program. With close to 600 employees, the total for the program hits nearly $180,000.

The human resources director was given two months to study the program and return to the executive committee with an analysis and any recommendations that might come from it.

The committee also had a presentation from the county’s insurance provider, the Horton Group, during their July 9 meeting.

The committee learned results for an employee health benefits survey, through which 54 percent – 375 employees – provided feedback on the current plan. Based on the results of the survey, a recommendation was made to offer a second plan – a lower premium option.

“If you have a healthy pool of users in your insurance program, you can go to a high deductible plan, or a high out-of-pocket cost plan…and you have something that you can roll over like a health savings account,” Machon explain.

With employees opting into the plan, the county could save money on the total cost of insurance.

The executive committee moved forward on offering a second plan.

The committee is also preparing to undergo a comprehensive wage study for the county, which Mahon said was last done approximately eight years ago.

“You want to keep your pay plan up-to-snuff as far as what is out there in the private sector,” Machon said. “They compare, not only to the private sector, but they will compare to other governments – local, counties, others – and do snapshots so you can compare.

“The (human resources) director was directed by the committee to go out and do a (request for proposals) for the cost of providing a study. The committee wants to have the three low bidders come back and present to the committee.”

Machon said that the three proposals range from $82-95,700.

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