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As city health costs soar, ‘wellness’ post pushed in Manchester

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 16. 2014 10:28PM

MANCHESTER — A member of the Board of Mayor and Alderman says he thinks the city can spend less on health coverage for employees by hiring a $48,000-per-year wellness coordinator to make sure municipal workers eat right, exercise and receive preventive medical care.

Alderman Garth Corriveau will renew his bid Tuesday to convince colleagues to create the position of city health and wellness officer in the Health Department.

The city is self-insured for most health claims and contracts; reinsurance companies cover excess coverage claims.

Corriveau first proposed creation of the post a couple of years ago, when health care costs for city and school workers approached $40 million per year. He pulled the proposal back after the new contracts shifting costs to employees were negotiated with city worker unions, with the exception of the union representing teachers.

But Corriveau said reports provided to the aldermanic Committee on Accounts suggests the reduction in city health care expenditures may have been short-lived.

“Current city health care expenditures are over projections,” he said. “Not only is our current health spending back at the level it was prior to our collective bargaining reforms, but we are on a pace to be back well above it next year.”

Corriveau said the goal for the new city job is to move city worker health plans from a system that pays fees for health care services to one that rewards good health. The wellness officer will try to teach city workers about the importance of good health practices and assist employees in working with the health insurance system.

”I believe with $40 million in annual spending, we can find massive amounts of savings; we can be more cost-effective,” Corriveau said. “I now believe this is an initiative we can’t afford not to do.”

The original 2010 proposal from Corriveau came soon after city Public Health Director Tim Soucy issued a “concept paper” on creation of an Employee Health and Wellness Program.

Soucy said at the time that a city wellness program could be constructed to look into “evidence-based practices that demonstrate reductions in municipal health care costs and improved health outcomes of city employees.”

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