Wellness incentive program gets city employees up and moving
The city of Copperas Cove, Texas, continues to place an emphasis on wellness and has created an incentive program for city employees called CoveFit. The program was started in 2015 and Eddie Wilson, Copperas Cove police chief, has acted as the city’s wellness program chairman for the past five years.
“A healthy workforce results in a more productive workforce with less absenteeism, fewer accidents, lower health care demands and greater overall savings by reducing the incidence of disease and disability,” Wilson explained. This inspired the city to launch the first wellness initiative in 2013, in which participants needed to complete six events in order to receive incentives.
This program, however, was not widely received since one of the six events was participation in a 5K race and many employees did not wish to participate in a 5K. This led city officials to reevaluate the wellness program in order to reach a wider majority of employees. Human resources and a committee of 10 employees from different city departments evaluated various wellness programs and employee surveys in order to come up with their own unique program, CoveFit.
Wilson stated, “City employees are encouraged to participate in wellness programs that help identify and reduce health risks before serious health problems occur or allow better management of existing health problems.” City employees and city-insured dependents are able to access screenings, follow-up assistance, educational resources and classes that promote healthy lifestyles, nutrition and exercise.
CoveFit program members can compete in teams of three or four and be a combination of full-time employees, part-time employees or dependents, but they must all complete the same events. Proof of participation in an event must be sent to human resources or a committee member. Completion of activities earns the team points, which accumulate toward receiving incentives.
Activities to earn points include preventative health such as eye exams, dental exams, immunizations, an annual wellness screening, biometric screening, consultations, attending the health fair and preventative cancer or health screening. Healthy lifestyle activities, such as completing a tobacco-free course or completing the 120-day weight loss challenge, can gain teams points. Events and activities that promote exercise, such as individual exercise, group fitness classes, participation in a high endurance race, participation in a competitive sports league, races, pedometer challenge and a 10K walk or run, are also included in earning points. Reasonable alternatives can be provided if members are unable to complete suggested activities.
Incentives for completing such activities to collect points include a $25 insurance waiver, a shirt and an elite award. Once a team reaches 75 points, they earn a wellness day off. The city contributes cash incentives in amounts ranging between $100 to $500 that can go toward an employee’s health savings account, flexible spending account, ICMA 457 account or their paycheck for earning specific point totals. The top four teams with the highest scores are rewarded with a CoveFit polo.
Program participation continues to see an increase over the years. “Although the program is strictly voluntary, the effort put into educating and motivating employees has resulted in a program participation rate of around 50-60% annually,” Wilson boasted. “The new program year started in October 2019, and 180 of the 290 total employees have already signed on. This is the highest rate of participation so far.”
In previous years, the maximum number of individual points needed to collect all incentives was 100. However, during the last program year, 12 employees and one dependent earned over 200 points, meaning the top two winning teams were able to earn over 200 points. This year, in order to reach the elite tier, teams must reach 200 points.
While many organizations have been struggling lately with large increases in health care premiums, Copperas Cove has not been suffering the same struggle. The city’s work with CoveFit actually helped to reduce premiums in 2015, 2016 and 2017. In 2018, there was only a 1.5% increase. Reduction in insurance usage rates has also been seen after employees were provided education on how to use their health insurance. Since implementing a wellness program, Wilson announced, “Employees have gone from zero participation in 5K race events seven years ago to more than a third of employees completing at least one race annually. This is a number Copperas Cove is proud of considering only around 17% of the general population participates, according to Statista.” He continued to describe the benefit many participants have experienced, “Many employees are also completing multiple annual races to include 10Ks and half marathons. Three employees just recently completed their first ever full marathon. Every year has seen increases in other event categories as well.”
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