Remember to Take the [Wellness] Initiative to Save Money on Your Health Insurance Premiums in 2018
Did you participate in the Wellness Initiatives program last year?
If so, you are saving money this year on your health insurance (medical, prescription, dental, and vision) costs. Perhaps you are not benefitting from the rate reductions in 2017 but want to know how to receive them in 2018.
Whether or not you participated for 2017, if you are covered by a Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS)-provided medical insurance plan through CareFirst, Cigna, or Kaiser Permanente, you are eligible to participate in Wellness Initiatives and receive the rate reductions. You have until October 6, 2017, to meet the program requirements and reap the benefits in 2018.
There are three components to the Wellness Initiatives program: a biometric health screening, a health risk assessment, and a smoker (tobacco-user) surcharge. To maintain the rate deductions and avoid the surcharge, you must participate in Wellness Initiatives each year.
Biometric Health Screening
MCPS will pay an additional 1 percent of the total cost of your health insurance—reducing your contribution by 1 percent—if you complete a biometric health screening of your blood pressure, blood sugar, body mass index (BMI), and cholesterol within each year’s announced time frame* (by October 6, 2017, to receive the reduction in 2018). Your health screening may be completed by your primary care physician** or at one of your insurance plan’s screenings held in MCPS central office locations throughout the year. These screenings are sponsored by Well Aware, the MCPS wellness program.
If you choose to attend a Well Aware health screening, be sure to sign up for one that is associated with your medical insurance plan (CareFirst, Cigna, or Kaiser Permanente). Dates, times, locations, and registration instructions for the Well Aware health screenings are available on the Biometric Health Screenings web page.
Health Risk Assessment
In addition to the biometric health screening, each of the three medical insurance plans offers online health-risk assessments, which ask you basic questions about your health. If you complete your medical plan’s assessment within the announced time frame* (by October 6, 2017, for 2018 reductions), MCPS will pay an additional 1 percent of the total cost of your health insurance (reducing your contribution by another 1 percent).
To complete your yearly health risk assessment, visit your medical plan’s web page (CareFirst, Cigna, or Kaiser Permanente) and log in to your password-protected account. (You may need to create an account first.) Then, follow the on-screen instructions.
Smoker (Tobacco-user) Surcharge
MCPS imposes a surcharge to the total health insurance cost of employees who are covered by an MCPS-provided medical plan if they or their covered spouses smoke or use other forms of tobacco. To avoid this surcharge, employees and their spouses need to be tobacco free for 12 consecutive months prior to each January 1 effective date.
Note: The amount of the surcharge is established by employee association agreements approved by the Montgomery County Board of Education. As per negotiated agreement with SEIU, the tobacco-user surcharge for fiscal year (FY) 2018 will increase from 3 percent to 25 percent. As of publication of this issue of For Your Benefit, FY 2018 negotiated agreements with MCEA and MCAAP have not been announced.
Each fall during Employee Benefits Open Enrollment, if you will be covered by an MCPS-provided medical plan on January 1 of the next calendar year, you will need to attest online to whether or not you and your spouse (if married) will be tobacco free throughout the current calendar year. If you do not attest or attest to you or your spouse NOT being tobacco free throughout the current calendar year, your contribution to your health insurance (medical, prescription, dental, and vision plans) will include a surcharge on the total cost of the health insurance. In addition, if you falsely attest to you or your spouse being tobacco free throughout the current calendar year, you will be assessed a $2,500 penalty.
If you and/or your spouse use tobacco, consider quitting so you can stop paying the surcharge. Once you and your spouse have been tobacco free for any 12 consecutive months, you may re-attest online to have the surcharge removed within two months. To help you quit, attend a smoking-cessation class such as Quit for Good.
You will find a chart that outlines the steps necessary to receive the rate reductions and avoid the surcharge in 2018 in this issue of For Your Benefit. Further information is available on the Wellness Initiatives for Employees web page. There you will find helpful links to the spring 2015 issue of For Your Benefit, which provides the most detail on the program; frequently asked questions; dates, times, and locations of Well Aware’s biometric health screenings; and instructions for finding out if you have received credit for your Wellness Initiatives participation.
*The time frame begins the first day of Employee Benefits Open Enrollment each fall and ends the Friday before the next Open Enrollment begins a year later.
** If you are a CareFirst BlueChoice plan member and choose to have your primary care physician conduct your health screening, you must ask your physician to complete and sign a CareFirst Health and Wellness Evaluation Form. You will find a link to the form and instructions for submitting it on the Wellness Initiatives for Employees web page.