STEP Up program included in Milwaukee County budget

As part of the Milwaukee County budget process, Milwaukee County Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic and Jason Haas (along with Sups. Biddle, Lipscomb, Broderick, Weishan, and Harris) introduced the STEP Up wellness program as an amendment to the budget. According to a press release issued by Sup. Dimitrijevic, the STEP Up program would financially penalize any Milwaukee County employees who choose not to participate in the program in an effort to “encourage” employees to pursue healthier lifestyle choices while lowering health care costs.

From Sup. Dimitrijevic’s press release:

Health care costs are driven by a handful of diseases — including hypertension, diabetes and heart disease — that can be managed or prevented. But the required lifestyle adjustments are easy to put off, especially if the problem isn’t detected. The STEP Up plan rewards employees for their participation and includes a surcharge for employees who decline to participate or who smoke.

And here’s the full text of the amendment:

By Supervisors Dimitrijevic, Biddle, Lipscomb, Broderick, Weishan, Harris and Haas
Amend Org. Unit No. 1950 – Employee Fringe Benefits, to modify the Wellness Initiative,
as follows:
Wellness Initiative. The 2011 Adopted Budget included a provision to contract
with United Health Care for a disease management program that focuses
wellness efforts on individuals suffering from specific chronic health issues. For
2012, the cost of Disease Management is assumed in the overall health care
budget, while $700,000 $625,000 is budgeted for this initiative an improved
wellness program, beginning July 1, as an investment in improving the health of
employees to slow the long-term rate of health benefit cost increases.
An RFP will be issued for a wellness program that includes a health risk
assessment with biometric screening, health coaching and quarterly follow-up
contacts by health professionals. A contract proposal will be submitted for
County Board approval no later than May 2012. Additionally, the Employee
Benefits Division will work with the TPA to broaden the definition of preventative
health services that can be accessed without an office visit co-pay, thereby
incenting well-checks. The wellness program will incentivize program
participation. The Employee Benefits Workgroup is directed to design an
improved wellness program that focuses on adherence as opposed to
participation by providing monthly financial incentives for full participation in the
program, and surcharges for non-participation or tobacco use to be credited
against premiums, as shown in the following table.
Single Plan Family Plan
Participation – non tobacco (Credit) ($25) ($50)
Participation – tobacco user (surcharge) $10 $20
Non-participation (surcharge) $25 $50

To be 100% honest I’m not sure what to make of the STEPUp program. On the one hand I certainly support the idea of employee wellness programs, but on the other hand it’s disconcerting to say the least that a group of progressive County Supervisors would think it’s a great idea to financially penalize County employees for choosing not to participate in the STEPUp program. County employees – and public employees in general – have made serious financial concessions/sacrifices as a result of the so-called Republican “budget repair” bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Scott Walker earlier this year, and I’m not entirely such how much more of a financial sacrifice some on the County Board want County employees to make.


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2 thoughts on “STEP Up program included in Milwaukee County budget

  1. Well, to make it worthwhile, they would have to recoop the $700,000 or $625,000 mentioned.
    Interesting study – would the surcharges plus the possible decreased health care costs make up for the budgeted amount?
    I’d say it could happen in the long run, but even if everyone signs up, and they start today, the effects won’t show for at least a couple of years.
    The surchages are an employee pain, but if they effectively broaden the definition of preventive services (no copay), it might even out too.

  2. every economic activity has its ultimate cost…sometimes you pay up front and sometimes you pay later…but sooner or later you are gonna pay…when you can control the costs by doing something now…you will probably reduce the total historical cost even though those savings seem too far in the future or illusionary. Spending time and money to improve the health of the workforce makes sense in reduced medical costs and reduced efficiency in the workplace through lower productivity.

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