Dean Wallace talking with two students

About the Wellness Program

Participation
Benefits Recommendation
Benefits Committee Members

The Benefits Committee consists of representatives of the faculty, staff and administration and was formed to take a look at our benefits in general. This year our insurance broker had considerable difficulty securing a bid for Wofford since our medical costs have increased by 80% over the past 5 years. We have three choices if we are to remain insurable: agree to a wellness plan, agree to increase premiums across all groups, or agree to a reduction in benefits (such as higher deductibles, changes in services covered, etc.). The Board of Trustees has asked the College to consider a wellness plan since this has been a trend across the country. 90% of employers providing health insurance have wellness plans. Of the three choices above, it seems by far the best.

A wellness plan will not necessarily reduce our claims, but it does address health issues which are of concern across the nation. Traditionally these are: tobacco use, inactivity, obesity and uncontrolled blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Adopting a wellness plan that provides the tools to successfully address these health factors has been a popular and effective way to encourage healthier habits and improve health, with additional benefits for enhanced quality of life. Clinically-based wellness programs have also been shown to reduce the frequency and overall burden of high-cost conditions in the future, thereby allowing the health plan to retain its value at comparable prices in the short term, with minimized risk of cost inflation in the long term.

Although Wofford currently has a wellness plan, it is financially ineffective because it only has 30% participation. Our aim is for full participation. Studies show that in order to achieve maximum participation the premium differential between participants and non-participants must be significant, such as $100 per month. This premium differentiation is not intended to be discriminatory or punitive, but instead to encourage participation. Therefore, the baseline employee contribution for the health plan will be universally applied to all members, with opportunities to reduce that contribution to follow.

Participation involves:

Year 1: A health assessment questionnaire and a health screening, to include:
  1. Height, weight and waist measurements
  2. A blood pressure test
  3. And some blood work to test for cholesterol and blood sugar

Year 2: Same as year 1 plus following a plan (where necessary)

Year 3: Same as year 2 plus achieving measurable goals (potentially in the area of tobacco status and achieving or maintaining a healthy weight).

The college will provide wellness staff that can perform these tests. Privacy laws and the professionalism of the staff mean that information remains entirely confidential and will not impact conditions of employment. The committee has also discussed incentives for healthy living such as a walking program, weight management program (potentially including access to Registered Dietitians on campus), tobacco cessation classes, yoga classes etc. We believe that a wellness program can alert participants to potential risk factors that are otherwise asymptomatic, such as high blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar. Hopefully it can also raise awareness about healthy choices and create an atmosphere of encouragement.

Benefits Committee Recommendation:

The strategy just described has been the only reliable means by which health plans facing similar challenges have been able to control costs and retain the full value of the benefit for their employees and their families. Members of the Benefits Committee have continued to evaluate the implementation of the plan as described above. The College plans to move ahead with incentivizing participation in the wellness plan effective with our next plan renewal in November 2014. Participation in this first year will be as described above. The requirements for participation after the first year are still being discussed. We are also working on bringing more health and wellness programs on campus.  

Benefits Committee Members:

  • Lani Foster
  • Sally Hitchmough
  • Barbie Jefferson
  • Richard Johnson
  • Lisa Lefebvre
  • Carole Lister
  • Michael Merriman
  • Kenneth Pettit
  • Beth Wallace
  • Clayton Whisnant