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Kalamazoo County saves millions in health care costs

A couple jogging
Ed Yourdon - Flickr
Wellness programs encourage people to lead health lifestyles. Kalamazoo County says their program is paying off.

A wellness program is paying huge dividends for Kalamazoo County. This year, the county spent $7.7 million on health care for its employees. That’s a little more than $2 million less than it spent 6 years ago.

Anne Conn is Kalamazoo County’s assistant director of Human Resources. She says they enticed employees to participate in the wellness program by offering freebies and even an extra day off.

"People are in the wellness program now because they want to be, not because we’re giving them a t-shirt to do it."

Conn said people are realizing the benefit of their own healthy lifestyles and taking it home to their families.

Conn says the program differs from a lot of other wellness programs because it requires employees meet with a wellness coach at least twice a year. One employee was sent from the health screening straight to the hospital because his blood pressure was off the charts.

“He firmly believes that the program saved his life. You can say by avoiding a heart attack or avoiding a stroke we saved ‘x’ amount of dollars. But what dollar value do you place on the life of your employee? You can’t do it.”

Conn will report to Kalamazoo’s county board Tuesday night that they will see zero increases in health care premiums. She says that’s due almost entirely to the positive results of the wellness program.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.