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News Update

Wellness Program Reduces Employee Healthcare Costs

The School District of Manatee County (Fla.) has implemented a new wellness program.

Nationally, health-care costs are rising roughly 10 percent each year. Costs at the School District of Manatee County (Fla.), however, are rising at a mere 1 percent since the district implemented an employee wellness program, dubbed HealthVantage, three years ago. Since the wellness program took root, the district has saved nearly 14 percent on health-care costs compared to other districts and $1.3 million for medical and prescription services during the first half of 2010 compared to 2009.

In 2008, prior to the program's implementation, data showed approximately 5 percent of the district's 5,200 employees were accounting for nearly 51 percent of the district's overall health-care costs. HealthVantage includes on-site health clinics, seminars and fitness centers to tackle chronic, co-morbid and preventative care for these employees and others. The program isn't funded through the district's operating dollars, but rather through federal funding from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service and their Retiree Drug Subsidy Program, as well as donations from the district's insurance provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield. Manatee schools have received nearly $1 million in funding for Health- Vantage over the last three years. "Lower health-care costs is the residual effect and something that happens naturally when people are healthier," says Kristi Dickerson, Manatee's health and wellness coordinator.

Each year, employees in the district's 60 buildings receive on-site screenings for body mass index, blood pressure, blood chemistry and cell counts. They also receive a follow-up health-risk assessment. Health instructors provide after-school classes, including yoga, spinning and ballroom dancing. A full-service gym is also available at one site for all employees and their spouses. Two weight management programs were launched as part of the district's nutrition education program. Wellness seminars are also filmed for employees and the community at large to view.

Manatee partnered with the Tampa-based consulting group, MedVision, to help monitor data analytics, implement the HealthVantage program, and assess the program's overall effectiveness on reducing health-care costs.

"We've seen people get off certain medications just from increased physical exercise," Dickerson says. "The employees really feel that the administration is investing in them." To learn more about the School District of Manatee County's wellness program, visit