Some House members were critical Wednesday of a new Public Employees Insurance Agency wellness initiative, calling it intrusive and an invasion of privacy.
“We have some pretty doggone unhappy state employees. A lot of that unhappiness is based on this program,” Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, said of PEIA’s new GO365 program.
Under the new initiative, which launched Jan. 1, PEIA insurees earn points by completing health assessments, meeting a variety of health goals and participating in various healthy lifestyle and fitness programs.
Those who meet certain point thresholds will receive “bonus bucks” that can be exchanged for gift cards or fitness equipment. However, beginning July 1, 2019, insurees who haven’t earned enough points will have their premiums increased by $25 a month and will have a $500 increase in their deductibles.
“You have a lot of state employees who are really hot and bothered,” Gearheart told PEIA executive director Ted Cheatham. “They consider it an invasion of privacy.”
“There’s a lot of people out there who are not healthy people, and they aren’t going to the doctor,” Cheatham responded, explaining the rationale for the wellness program.
“We’re saying, if you don’t want to play, you don’t have to, it’s just going to cost you more money,” he added.
He said insurees who are obese, have unhealthy lifestyles or have untreated chronic diseases such as high blood pressure or diabetes, ultimately cost PEIA more for their medical care.
Cheatham said there are no privacy issues with the program, since GO365 information is kept confidential by the program vendor, Humana, and is not provided to PEIA.
“I’m not getting that Ted Cheatham is not eating his five [servings of] fruits and vegetables a day,” Cheatham said.
Delegate Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, said he shares some of Gearhart’s concerns about the program.
“Like much of the state, we don’t have access to health clubs. We don’t have access to YMCAs,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult to comply.”
Cheatham said GO365 points are not limited to participation in exercise and fitness programs, and can be earned for such activities as giving blood or going to the dentist for a checkup.
He said GO365 will be adding participating sites and programs, one of which he said will involve locating beacons in each state park, with points awarded to each insuree who walks to the beacon.
The GO365 debate stemmed from the Department of Administration’s budget presentation Wednesday to the House Finance Committee.
Administration Secretary John Myers said the department’s base budget request for 2018-19 is largely unchanged, although the governor’s budget bill includes a $20 million funding request for the General Services Division for a variety of maintenance and repair projects for state buildings.
He said that includes replacing heating, cooling and ventilation systems, installing sprinkler systems, along with enhancing lighting on the Capitol complex campus, and repairing Capitol fountains.