By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — Amesbury was recently honored for its efforts to promote health and wellness among city employees over the past year, earning two awards from the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association at the annual Massachusetts Municipal Association conference this month.
One of the awards was a Wellness Award recognizing the city’s efforts to help its employees live healthier lives and teach them how to better utilize their health insurance, and the other was a Loss Prevention award honoring the city’s efforts to curtail liability.
Mayor Thatcher Kezer said the two awards reflected the success of the city’s Well Power program, as well as its ability to keep health care and liability costs down. Amesbury became the first community in Massachusetts to participate in the Well Power program in 2010, and so far the three-year program has paid major dividends, Kezer said.
“What we’ve done is we’ve been able to hold our costs or drive down our costs of insurance because of these initiatives and these programs,” Kezer said. “On the health side, I had a statistic that our emergency room utilization was down 14 percent, but (the MIIA) said it was like 17 percent.”
Emergency room utilization refers to the number of visits that city employees take to the emergency room. Kezer said the default response when a city employee is injured or not feeling well is to send them to the hospital, but under the Well Power program, employees are given access to tools to stay healthy and to on-call medical professionals for advice.
Specifically, the Well Power program provides personal health assessments, educational sessions, exercise, nutrition, stress-reduction and weight-loss programs and access to on-site, online and telephonic support. The program is provided by MIIA at no additional cost to the city or the employees.
By helping employees live healthier lives, the city has been able to reap the benefits, Kezer said.
“That’s one of the reasons why our health costs, with no other changes, were going to stay at the same rate, and then we made changes to the plan that drove the costs down $880,000,” Kezer said.
Kezer said he is pleased by the recognition and gave credit to the city employees for making strides to live healthier and for doing their part in reducing the city’s health care costs in the process.
“It’s to the credit of our employees for doing a really good job managing our insurance programs and all the employees responding on the health side,” Kezer said. “Participating in the Well Power programs, being healthier, doing activities and being smarter about utilizing our health programs.”