NHBR's Health Innovator Award: City of Concord
Showing that many minds working together can make a healthy difference, the City of Concord has been recognized by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care of New England and NHBR as the latest winner of the Health Innovator Award. Among the city's innovations is the Health Benefits Review Team, a first-of-its-kind effort by a New Hampshire municipality that has educated city employees on vital issues, including health behaviors, wellness initiatives and the factors that drive up health-care costs."We've had a long history of significant progress," said Jim Howard, deputy city manager for finance.
The Health Benefits Review Team, or HBRT, includes a representative from each of the six unions in the city, a non-contractual employee representative, a city retiree representative, and six city management representatives.
Chaired by the deputy city manager for finance, it retains a benefit consultant to assist the committee to identify and work through numerous issues involved. The HBRT fostered the creation of a Wellness Team, dedicated to maintaining and improving the health of the city's employees and spouses through a wide variety of participatory program options and incentives."If you have some basic appreciation for open communication and working together, everyone can see what's at stake, from a cost and personal health perspective," said Amanda Moore, the city's human resources program administrator.
Q. What were Concord's health-care options before it began its shift toward innovative approaches?
Jim Howard: We had a one-size-fits-all plan before that, and even if employees didn't need it, they took it. We later established a cafeteria plan option that enabled employees to choose from a menu of benefits. As we watched prices increase and as things progressed, we saw a need to increase dialogue around this issue and recognized that communication would be good for everyone – particularly as the need for employees to share greater responsibility for premiums became evident.
In 1998, a consultant recommended we establish the HBRT. The city council clearly supported this endeavor, which has been in place ever since. It's made a significant difference in helping individuals manage their health and making them wiser consumers of health care.
Q. What was the genesis of "Welflex," the city's wellness program?
Amanda Moore: It began in 2001 and has evolved into an extensive program. In partnership with Harvard Pilgrim, the city offers employees health screenings, health risk appraisals, education sessions and on-site exercise and weight management programs. The education sessions range from health-care consumerism to managing your diet to disease management. The programs continuously change based on aggregate results and health risk appraisals offered by the city and the city's health claims data.
Q. How do you measure success?
AM: To date, 78 percent of city employees participate. We receive a lot of positive feedback and are constantly asking employees how to improve the program. It is difficult to measure, but research shows employers receive a return on investment in as much as $6 for every $1 that is invested in wellness programs when you consider decreases in absenteeism, workers compensation, short term disability claims, and future health-care premium increases. Getting employees active and healthy can have a big impact on the person's overall quality of life and increase their productivity at the workplace.Q. What are some of the monetary incentives to the wellness program?
AM: We have different levels of participation, but for full participation, the city provides a maximum amount of up to $250 in "Wellpoints" to employees to offset the cost of their health insurance premiums and another $250 for their participating spouse.
Q. How far has Concord been ahead of the curve?
JH: In 2009 the national Government Finance Officers Association issued a best practice recommendation for health-care cost containment that basically said we should be doing the kind of things we have already been doing for more than a decade.
NHBR’s Health Innovator Awards Program is presented in partnership with Harvard Pilgrim