Wellness initiative raises concerns

While I am in favor of a wellness approach to health insurance (a healthy population is cheaper to insure), CU’s Wellness Initiative, highlighted in the Dec. 22, 2011, issue of CU Connections, raises concerns.

While the role of UBAB is undergoing clarification, I have never felt that input about our medical plans has been invited or easy, and doing so continues to be a mystery. Should employee concerns be channeled through staff or faculty council? To PBS? To UBAB? Honestly, I still don’t know what the University of Colorado Health and Welfare Trust is, how it works, what it does, what it really means to be self-funded, or how all of this fits together to produce CU health benefits — of which I am thankful, don’t get me wrong.

Regarding incentives to use exercise facilities, what about those of us who pursue an active lifestyle outside of these facilities on a regular basis? Do we miss out on discounted premiums, if offered? In a similar vein, I have an annual wellness exam performed by my primary care physician that includes a lifestyle questionnaire and full lab panel. I visit my dentist and other needed specialists regularly. Does an incentive-driven health assessment and screening provide something that I am not getting now? If not and if I don’t do the assessment, do I miss out on lower premiums?

I acknowledge the laudable goal and unique challenges inherent in getting a diverse population to change its ways. Ideally, the incentive of health itself would be enough, but that does not seem to be equally shared among us. Should incentives be offered on current health stats and/or results such as lower blood pressure, weight loss, etc.?

It’s a slippery slope to offer lower premiums to groups who practice particular sets of behaviors deemed likely to reduce the rate of insurance utilization because it calls into question the very concept of an insurance pool. However CU moves forward on this, I encourage its leadership to seek input from its employees before decisions are made that affect our pocketbooks.

Barry Northrop
Accounting and Business Support