NC State Health Plan Wellness Provisions Unlikely to Lower Health Costs

For those who hope that the NC State Health Plan new punitive “wellness” provisions (random cheek swab workplace salvia tests for smoking and random workplace height and weight measurement) will save money for NC, an analysis recently done by the Congressional Budget Office in response to prevention and wellness provisions in national reform proposals is illuminating:

In an effort to improve health and reduce medical costs, many employers — particularly large employers—offer their workers wellness programs designed to encourage healthy living. Those programs include nutrition and weight loss programs, discounts for gym membership, smoking cessation programs, and other personal health coaching. Although some case studies suggest that certain wellness programs reduce subsequent medical care, little systematic evidence exists.

In other words, there isn’t much evidence that wellness programs save much money. This shouldn’t be a surprise – two actuarial analyses of the State Health Plan’s wellness provisions during the debate over the bill in the General Assembly came to the same conclusion: any actual health savings from these programs are ephemeral at best.

If savings do emerge to the state from the wellness provisions they will come from one place – simply shifting substantially more health care costs to state employees. The penalty for smoking or being overweight in the NC Health Plan will not be paying an extra fee every month as many states have instituted. Rather employees and their families (regardless of family member smoking status) will be involuntarily placed in the 70/30 health plan option which requires thousands of dollars more a year of cost sharing than the standard state health plan.

Encouraging state employees to stop smoking and exercise more is a worthy goal. Penalizing state employees with thousands of dollars in bills is not the way to do it.

5 Comments

  1. IBXer

    October 9, 2009 at 10:20 am

    What, the government makes a bad decision when it comes to making healthcare policy decisions? No way!

  2. [...] admin wrote an intriguing post today onHere’s a little tasterThose programs include nutrition and weight loss programs, discounts for gym membership, smoking cessation programs, and other personal health coaching. Although some case studies suggest that certain wellness programs reduce subsequent … Encouraging state employees to stop smoking and exercise more is a worthy goal. Penalizing state employees with thousands of dollars in bills is not the way to do it. Share and Enjoy: Digg; del.icio.us; Facebook; Google Bookmarks … [...]

  3. Marsha V. Hammond, PhD

    October 15, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Just a little note re: what a fine job the private sector, most notably, BCBSNC has done re: health care (and I know; I have had BCBSNC PPO for over 10 years): they will not pay for a screening colonoscopy in a ‘clinic’ which is where most of them are done; closest screening colonoscopy to me is 75+ miles; BCBSNC PPO will not pay for mammograms.

    MEDICARE will pay for those. Give me the public option, please. I’m sick of these buckaroos.

    Marsha V. Hammond, PhD

  4. advantage web » NC State Health Plan

    October 12, 2010 at 5:52 am

    [...] 5.The Progressive Pulse – NC State Health Plan Wellness Provisions For those who hope that the NC State Health Plan new punitive “wellness” provisions (random cheek swab workplace salvia tests for smoking and random workplace height and weight measurement) will save money for NC, an analysis recently done by the Congressional Budget Office in response to prevention and… http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2009/10/09/nc-state-health-plan-wellness-provisions-unlikely-to-lower-health-costs/ [...]

  5. ppo web » NC State Employee Health Plan

    October 15, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    [...] 3.The Progressive Pulse – NC State Health Plan Wellness Provisions For those who hope that the NC State Health Plan new punitive “wellness” provisions (random cheek swab workplace salvia tests for smoking and random workplace height and weight measurement) will save money for NC, an analysis recently done by the Congressional Budget Office in response to prevention and… http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2009/10/09/nc-state-health-plan-wellness-provisions-unlikely-to-lower-health-costs/ [...]