Assessments mandatory for V.I. government workers


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ST. THOMAS - Active government employees and retirees younger than 65 must get a health risk assessment or face a stiff penalty next year.

The new rule was made by the Government Employee's Service Commission Health Insurance Board, which selects the government's health insurance plan.

Previously, the program was voluntary, but only a small percentage of employees participated, despite incentives such as paid time off and gift cards.

Personnel Director Kenneth Hermon Jr. said 1,478 employees completed the assessment in 2013.

With the current employment numbers, about 11,000 employees and retirees younger than 65 will have to complete the health risk assessment. Failure to comply by Sept. 14 will result in a biweekly insurance charge of $20.83 in Fiscal Year 2015 in addition to their regular health insurance premium.

The mandate to get the assessment and the penalty only applies to the employee or retiree under 65, not their dependants.

"This is solely at the discretion of the health insurance board after seeing the historic trend and health insurance cost increases," Hermon said.

The information for the assessment can be obtained at any of the various health and wellness fairs throughout the year, a doctor, or one of the Personnel Division's health coaches. The information required includes biometric numbers for glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol.

That information is entered at www.mycigna.com. Employees and retirees younger than 65 also must answer a series of questions about their health and lifestyle, including frequency of smoking, drinking and medical history.

Hermon said the whole process will take about 20 minutes and as an incentive, the first 5,000 people to complete it will get a $25 gift card.

"We're giving you something for nothing," Hermon said.

The cards are funded by $400,000 that Cigna has given the government to promote wellness among its employees and retirees younger than 65.

"The GESC Board of Trustees trust that, when all government employees and retirees under 65, take the Health Risk Assessment, and follow the recommendations of a coach based on the outcome of their Health Risk Assessment with lab markers, behavior will be changed, health improved and insurance claims remain steady or decrease - allowing for a more affordable Medical Plan for the Government of the Virgin Islands," GESC board chairman Clemmie Moses said in a written statement.

Hermon said: "This is important for the health insurance board and Cigna to get an overall picture of the government's population. Right now, 20 to 25 percent of the population is driving 80 to 85 percent of the cost."

He said the health risk assessments will benefit the individual by making it possible to prevent certain diseases. Prevention is much cheaper than treatment, so if more people can prevent diseases, insurance costs could decrease.

Hermon said finding any way to lower premiums is necessary for the government and the employees. Premium costs have risen 88 percent since 2007, and they will continue to rise unless people make an effort to get healthier, he said.

Active employees can obtain more information from their respective departmental human resource officers. Retirees younger than 65 seeking clarification can contact the Division of Personnel at 714-8588 on St. Thomas or 718-8588 on St. Croix.

For more information go to www.dopusvi.org.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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