HELENA, Mont.-The HealthyYou! Wellness Program has been in place since 2009, and while the long-term goal is to reduce overall claims costs, and thus CU premiums, to date the program has saved more than $250,000 in premiums for participating credit unions, awarded $1,500 in wellness program cash incentives, and returned $228,000 in a premium rebate.

The Montana CU Network has achieved virtually 100% participation from credit unions that are part of the self-funded trust (see related story), winning a Worksite Health Promotion from the State of Montana along the way.

Tabitha Garvin, executive director for MCUN's Group Benefit Trust and COO of business development for MCUN, said that the wellness program has had a big impact at the time of renewal, sometimes chopping off three percentage points from annual premium increases. While Garvin said Healthy You! cash incentives encourage employees to meet personalized wellness plan goals, another factor is a driver. "Getting employees simply to use the preventative services, such as eye exams, teeth cleaning, and physicals contributes significantly to overall employee wellness," said Garvin.

For individual CUs a wellness program can involve a great deal of time to administer, and is costly. MCUN, on the other hand, faced issues with designing a program that was flexible enough to work for credit unions with eight or 80 employees. The trust provides the program's funding, underwriting administrative costs and covers incentives, premium differentials and cash prizes awarded to credit unions that meet minimum requirements for the wellness program. The trust also provides back-office administrative support, marketing, education, and health and wellness expertise through third-party relationships.

HealthyYou! requires commitment and responsibility from each participating CU as well as the Trust, said Garvin. Each credit union is responsible for having a designated Wellness Champion to distribute educational materials to employees, participate in monthly conference calls, coordinate staff training at least once a year, and more.

"The trust provides ongoing education to the Wellness Champions," explained Garvin. "We contracted with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana for the online wellness tracking system. The system provides on-demand education, wellness and medical resources, and securely tracks individual employee wellness activities. An online health assessment also allows the league to create an aggregate report on wellness for participants.

"We use the aggregate data on identified risk factors to direct education efforts and program requirements to enhance the quality and strengthen the overall effectiveness of the program each year," said Garvin. "It is very rewarding to see so many credit unions banding together to develop a program that would be cost-prohibitive individually...and to develop a wellness culture."

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