Kaiser, SEIU-UHW Announce Innovative Workplace Wellness Program

[September 19, 2013] OAKLAND, Calif. Kaiser Permanente and the Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions today jointly announced the launch of the Total Health Incentive Plan, a groundbreaking employee incentive that takes a new approach to workplace wellness. The plan, which takes effect January 1, 2014, is collective and voluntary and encourages and empowers Kaiser Permanente employees to make their own health a priority, while building a culture of health in the workplace.

The Total Health Incentive Plan is one of the ways Kaiser Permanente and its union partners are demonstrating their commitment to a supportive and healthy workplace. The 29 local unions that make up the Coalition proposed the plan, and played a crucial role in designing it. The unions will also be vital to the plan’s implementation.

“The ultimate goal of our workforce wellness programs is to help healthy individuals stay healthy, and support those with health risks in improving their overall health,” said Kaiser Permanente Chief Executive Officer Bernard J. Tyson. “Kaiser Permanente offers a number of resources employees can access to help them in achieving their health goals.”

Workers who volunteer to become health care champions will work with their colleagues in the workplace to help them improve their health by setting up programs such as walking meetings and walking clubs, healthy cooking programs, and smoking cessation workshops.

Walter Allen, interim executive director, Coalition of Kaiser Permanente Unions, expressed his support for the plan from a union perspective and acknowledged the work ahead: “We must improve the health of America. This is complex work based on a simple principle: unions exist to improve the lives of all working people, so together with Kaiser Permanente, we are leading the movement for healthier workplaces, communities, and families.”

The Total Health Incentive Plan affects a total of 133,000 Kaiser Permanente employees in California, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Oregon, Washington, and Virginia as well as the District of Columbia. The plan measures health improvements and provides rewards on a regional basis rather than health status of individual employees. Unlike many traditional employee wellness incentive programs, there are no penalties for failure to meet health goals. The program calls for eligible employees to take an online health assessment and maintain up-to-date biometric screenings.

Incentives are designed to encourage employees to adopt more healthy lifestyles, and will be based on achieving collective, annual, steady health improvements in four health risk areas: blood pressure levels, body mass index (BMI), cholesterol levels, and smoking rates.

The program is voluntary and all biometric information and results are reported in aggregate. That means that individual participation and biometric data will remain private and confidential.

Initial employee response to the plan concept has been positive. By using a regional approach to incentives rather than an individual one, the plan makes individuals more likely to participate, removing the fear of being singled out about their health. Union members and front-line employees will serve as champions for the Total Health Incentive Plan, acting as role models of health.

“The incentive plan is a big plus for Kaiser Permanente employees,” said Maureen Fox, RN, Sunnyside Medical Center, Portland, OR, Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals member. “It’s a great tool that serves to introduce and motivate people to do what they need to do to get and stay healthy. Sometimes you don’t even know until you try to make a change what you’re capable of, and anything that helps you get started is great.”

“Total health is not just about eating better, it’s about feeling better. Incentives always help. Actions speak louder than words —and this is action,” said Rebecca Gillette, Exercise as a Vital Sign, San Francisco Medical Center, SEIU UHW member.

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