Caroline Cournoyer is GOVERNING's deputy web editor.E-mail: email@example.com
In 2009, Nebraska became the first state to offer its public employees a health insurance plan designed to promote healthy lifestyles. With the Wellness PPO plan, the state offered better preventative coverage at a lower premium than most of the other insurance options available to its workers in an effort to reduce health-care costs. Now, less than two years later, more than 30 percent of Nebraska's employees are enrolled in the plan and it's beginning to show positive results. In 2010, state employees reportedly ate healthier, smoked less, exercised more and experienced less stress and depression. There was also a 19 percent increase in the portion of people who went for preventative screenings, which are 100 percent covered. The wellness insurance plan is voluntary, but in order to qualify, employees must fill out an online health assessment, undergo a health exam that determines their risk level for certain diseases and medical conditions, and, based on the results of the online assessment and exam, complete an educational wellness program. The programs range from helping people make better lifestyle choices about eating, exercising and smoking to helping people manage chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease. It's too early to tell how much money the program has saved the state, but it has helped some employees catch early signs of health problems, state officials told the Associated Press. Washington state and North Carolina offer similar plans.