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New Benefit Plan Will Cut Premiums for Employees Who Stay Healthy and Fit

CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) has introduced a wellness plan that will pay employees to enhance their health and fitness. It is believed to be the first program of its kind nationally among large healthcare providers.

Employees will have options to save $200, $400 or $600 annually based on meeting up to 10 wellness criteria. The first incentive credits will be available in the company's 2010 health plan.

The program is part of a new, web-based initiative powered by the WebMD web site. It is the newest in a large group of preventive health and lifestyle enhancement initiatives known collectively as LiveWELL Carolinas!

"Investing in preventive health is common sense," said CEO Michael C. Tarwater. "You get a healthier, more productive employee in the short run. In the long run a healthier employee makes for a more effective organization."

More than 25,000 benefits-eligible employees were entitled to register for the program, which is available at eight hospitals, two nursing homes and numerous physician practices in greater Charlotte.

Employees will qualify for medical premium credits by doing such things as exercising on a regular schedule, avoiding tobacco products, using seatbelts, completing confidential health questionnaires, and maintaining a lower body mass index.

Larry Chapman, senior vice president for WebMD Health Services, says the size and scope of this initiative is "unlike anything I have seen nationally."

Chapman said concerns about return on investment (ROI) have long been a deterrent to work-based wellness initiatives. He noted, however, that more than 60 peer-reviewed studies have validated the ROI that can be realized from preventive health. The most common ratio, he said, is a savings of $2.50 to $3 for every dollar expended.

"I cannot over-emphasize the uniqueness of this effort," Chapman said. "Programs of this scope require a significant investment, and the logistics of management can be daunting in a large healthcare system. I have no doubt that the business community -- not only in North Carolina but nationwide -- will be watching CHS very closely."

Tarwater said promoting healthier lifestyles is vital to any strategy for reining in medical costs.

"Escalating costs are draining wallets, sapping benefit plans and stressing government budgets at all levels," he said. "We must reduce avoidable utilization of healthcare services. I believe this will happen if and when we have a significantly healthier population."

Tarwater added that CHS's commitment to employee wellness is already delivering significant benefits to patients as well as employees.

"There is no question that our patients receive better care as a result of LiveWELL Carolinas!" he said. "A caregiver who is fit, happy and healthy is much better able to heal and inspire other people. We see evidence of this every day. We get a return on our investment every day."

SOURCE Carolinas HealthCare System
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