Public school workers’ health plan teams with wellness company

By Jackie Farwell, BDN Staff
Posted Feb. 04, 2013, at 4:36 p.m.

More than 50,000 Maine public school employees and their family members can tap into wellness programs under a new partnership between their health plan and a Tennessee company.

The Maine Education Association Benefits Trust, a not-for-profit benefit plan that administers health insurance coverage for most of Maine’s public school employees, has teamed up with Onlife Health Inc., a Brentwood, Tenn.-based wellness company, to serve 54,000 public school employees in Maine and their dependents.

The partnership will make Onlife’s wellness services, including health coaches and online courses, available to employees at 600 schools across the state. Active and retired employees, teachers, administrators, food service staff and other personnel covered by the trust’s Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurance plan will be eligible.

The trust is a separate but sister organization to the Maine Education Association teachers union. The health plan serves both union and non-union public school employees.

The trust hopes that the new wellness program will help employees to better understand their role in rising health care costs, said Christine Burke, executive director of Maine Education Association Benefits Trust. Preventing employees from getting sicker as they age and heading off illnesses related to smoking, inactivity, obesity and other risk factors will benefit both the plan’s members and its future bottom line, she said.

“We’re really trying to avoid that slow climb toward illness,” Burke said.

Last year, six individuals covered by the plan topped $1 million each in health claims, while the number of diabetic beneficiaries has grown 6 to 7 percent annually over the last four years, Burke said.

“We’re trying very hard to turn that trend around,” she said.

The trust’s previous wellness partner of two years, Planned Action Toward Health, recently ceased operating, Burke said. The trust signed a three-year contract with Onlife, she said, declining to disclose the value.

As of October, plan members could enroll in self-directed online wellness courses, and beginning last month, they could participate in 10-week challenges designed to encourage walking and healthy eating, Burke said.

In the first three months, employees have completed more than 9,000 wellness courses and many are consulting with a health coach about reaching wellness goals, according to the trust.

Participants in the program begin by completing a health assessment and can work with Onlife health coaches toward their goals for better fitness. They can then earn points that can be redeemed for pre-paid debit cards worth up to $150.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/02/04/news/state/public-school-workers-health-plan-teams-with-wellness-company/ printed on August 20, 2014