- Associated Press - Sunday, February 19, 2017

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Health insurance plans covering Arkansas school and state employees spent an average of about 31 percent more on obese employees or spouses than on others in 2015, according to a report.

The report by the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement says the plans spent an average of $4,302 on health expenses for employees and spouses whose height and weight indicated they were obese, The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Sunday (https://bit.ly/2kWwj24 ). That compared with an average of $3,270 on slimmer employees and spouses.

The average health costs were higher for employees and spouses who said they exercised fewer than 20 minutes per week. The report, prepared for the State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Board, says those costs were $6,043, compared with about $3,445 for those who exercised more.

The study analyzed the results of a survey that employees and spouses were required to fill out in 2015 to avoid having an extra $75 per month added to their premiums the next year.

Chris Howlett, director of the Department of Finance and Administration’s Employee Benefits Division, said he expects the board to begin considering options soon for encouraging healthy behavior among employees.

For instance, he said, the plans could discount premiums for employees who maintain a healthy lifestyle or meet goals such as quitting smoking or losing weight.

“I know there’s definitely an interest in individuals wanting to put, instead of cost increases across the board, cost increases to the population that becomes noncompliant” with health-related requirements, Howlett said.

The plans cover about 45,000 public school employees and about 26,000 state employees, in addition to retirees and the spouses and dependents of retirees and employees.

This year, the plans’ premiums rose an average of just 2 percent for public school employees and 3 percent for state employees.

But the board’s actuarial consultant has warned that larger increases will be needed in future years unless medical and drug costs rise more slowly or state and school district funding increases.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com


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