Inslee Directs Agencies to Streamline Approach

HCA LogoThe Washington state government is moving forward to improve its employee wellness programs under a plan outlined in a new Executive Order by Governor Jay Inslee.

“Preventing illness is the best way to improve health and save money on health care,” said Gov. Inslee. “I’m committed to doing everything I can to help the people of our state live longer, healthier lives. This executive order makes the health and wellness of state employees a priority, and sets the tone for government agencies and businesses around the state.”

This commitment to a healthier workforce may be good news for taxpayers. King County has implemented a similar wellness program focusing on healthy eating and other preventive health components. Since it began in 2007, the program saved $14.6 million in health care spending over a four year period.

WA_DOH_286A State Employee Health and Wellness Steering Committee will be formed, under the governor’s order, to develop a comprehensive wellness program for state employees for implementation by Jan 1, 2014. The committee will be chaired by both Health Care Authority Director, Dorothy Teeter, and Secretary of Health, John Wiesman.

Executive Order No. 13-06 focuses on three significant areas to improve health: providing wellness assistance to all state agencies so that they can build their own effective wellness programs, incorporating wellness in state employee health insurance plans, and requiring state agencies to develop and implement healthy food and beverage policies.

Dorothy Teeter of the HCA said she is eager to move ahead with the governor’s order, which opens a new frontier in employee benefits.

“For too long we have regarded medical insurance coverage as only being the employer’s responsibility,” Teeter said. “We need to look more broadly at the overall structure of wellness and prevention – healthy habits, healthy diet and a commitment to fitness. These are the true elements of building a healthier state workforce.”

State Department of Health Secretary John Wiesman said, “Healthy behavior plays a big role in overall health, yet we have to make it easier for people to make healthy choices. This is a good start. When employees have access to healthy foods, wellness programs, and preventive services they have a much better chance of living longer, healthier lives. It’s good for all of us, and saves on health care costs, too.”

While the order doesn’t apply directly to higher education or other levels of government in Washington state, Inslee said he encourages all member agencies in the Public Employee Benefits Division to participate.