Local school districts are watching the timeline for implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Some implementation dates are already being pushed back, and the districts are waiting to see how the act will affect them.
As they wait, districts continue to work on wellness initiatives, mirroring what is also taking place in the private sector.
Two and a half years ago, the Waupaca School District’s Health Insurance Committee began looking at what could be done to change the design of its plan, District Administrator David Poeschl said.
Deductibles, co-pays and deductibles for prescription drugs increased.
“It allowed the district to decrease the premium by 12 percent,” Poeschl said.
Next, the district began to establish its Working on Wellness committee.
“This year is our first year with the wellness committee. We started building the process last year. Now, we’re getting statistics on the usage aggregate,” said Carl Hayek, the district’s business manager.
Last fall, district employees had the option of doing a personal health assessment.It was the first time the district offered it, and it did so in conjunction with the Wisconsin Education Association and ThedaCare.
Those who participated saw a reduction in the amount they contribute to their premiums, Poeschl said.
A total of 300 people did the assessment.
Hayek said the 14-member wellness team meets monthly and will be working on efforts to help employees lower their cholesterol and their Body Mass Index – two areas of concern brought forward from the assessment.
“We included people in on the discussion ahead of time, so they see the value,” Poeschl said of the wellness topic. “It’s the future of health care.”
In the Weyauwega-Fremont School District, a Wellness Committee was established about seven years ago.
“We’ve been conscious of wellness issues,” District Administrator Scott Bleck said. “The healthier members are, the more potential for lower costs.”
The committee comes up with various activities for its employees.
“After winter break, we had a 10,000 steps per day program,” Bleck said.
Currently, 12 teams (with five members per team) are participating in the “Wheel of Fitness.”
It is open to the school community, as well as to spouses of employees who are also on the plan.
Participants do various things, including drinking eight glasses of water per day, doing an intense workout and getting between seven and eight hours of sleep per night.
“What has strengthened it is it’s a group activity,” Bleck said.
Also taking place in the school district on an annual basis is biometric testing.
“The results are gathered. We look at the risk factors. That drives the activities,” Bleck said.
The W-F district also has a fitness facility dedicated to staff and those on the health plan.
“Utilization is at an all-time high,” said Business Manager Brian Adesso.
The faciilty has treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, weights and space for small group aerobic classes.
In addition, Zumba classes are offered for those who live in the school district.
“We’re only as healthy as our community,” Bleck said. “They need to buy into wellness as well.”
In the Iola-Scandiavia School District, about 75 of the 85 people eligible for the district’s health insurance plan are on it, said Jon Novak, the district’s business manager.
“We’ve been very progressive with plan changes,” he said.
This is the second year the teaching staff has higher deductibles of $2,000 for those on the single plan and $4,000 for those on the family plan.
For the administrative staff, it is the third year of having higher deductibles.
“We could see that was the future of health care. We were more progressive,” Novak said.
Like the Waupaca School District, the I-S district also offered personal health assessments this year for the first time.
“We offered it to everyone in the district. If they had (district) insurance, they were encouraged to participate to help with premiums and also to have their spouse participate,” Novak said. “Between 70 and 75 percent participated. We have a baseline now and hope people will want to follow it.”
The district recently received the results of the personal health assessments and shared the information with staff.
Novak said the district’s Wellness Committee is in the process of evaluating what steps to take next.
Perhaps programs may be offered at the Aquatic & Fitness Center.
“It’s all something new,” said Interim District Administrator Duane Braun.
One program already available is the Frostbite Club.
Novak, who is a runner, said it began around 1990 and is now handled through the fitness center.
“From Dec. 1 to March 1, we encourage people to monitor their activity,” he said.
Those who participate agree to do 250 miles of activity during that time, whether it is running, biking or swimming.