Wellness promotion part of planned improvements to health benefits

New approach to group benefits will emphasize quality of life
By Staff

In taking a new approach to health benefit planning, leaders at the University of Colorado are looking to establish a culture of wellness among employees.

In early 2009, a team of health-care experts from throughout the university system and its affiliates, University Physicians Inc. and the University of Colorado Hospital, came together to explore ways for improving the university's group benefits plans. The team included colleagues with leading-edge experience in health-care policy, medical and pharmacy management, wellness and fitness programs, health-plan design, human resources, management and finance.

"We have made an intentional, philosophical shift in how we want to approach health benefits for CU employees," said E. Jill Pollock, chief human resources officer, who is leading the project team. "Over the next few years, with input from employees of all three affiliated groups, we hope to create a comprehensive benefit program that promotes leading healthier lives and honors those already with great fitness. We are taking advantage of the many experts on our campuses and in our community, making the most of our world-class hospital, physicians, nursing professionals and health and wellness researchers."

The team acknowledges that mitigating rising costs, creating greater flexibility and control in plan design, building a robust wellness and prevention program, and meeting employees' expectations for choice, cost and provider access will not happen in a year or two. The steps will be incremental; it will take several years to fully build the new health benefit model. Small changes for the 2010-2011 plan year, however, will begin to move the university in the new direction.

Employees will have the opportunity to participate in a voluntary health risk assessment that will aid them in understanding their individual health and help the medical community to recommend better plan designs for succeeding years. Also new for the next plan year will be university-wide wellness initiatives accessed through employee benefit plans and a cost-effective prescription drug co-pay option for the UA Net exclusive plan.

James Hill, Ph.D., Anschutz Medical Campus professor of pediatrics and medicine and director of both the Center for Human Nutrition and Colorado Nutrition Obesity Research Center, has helped shape the wellness approach for the team. He said he is encouraged by the university's new direction.

"The university is taking the right approach toward building a culture of wellness," Hill said. "CU is looking to provide employees and their families with exciting opportunities to maintain optimum health and prevent chronic disease."

The university is finalizing plan designs and rates for the 2010-11 plan year. Payroll & Benefit Services and representatives from the health plan team this month will be conducting employee forums on each campus to discuss what's new, plans for prevention and wellness initiatives and to seek employee input for future plan features.

More information about 2010-11 benefits and open enrollment will appear in future issues of the Faculty and Staff Newsletter and at the open enrollment Web site,