Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced a new “wellness program” for all city employees and their spouses (or domestic partners or civil-union spouses).
“Our program will change lives, make our workforce healthier, and save taxpayers money,” Emanuel said.
The program, called Chicago Lives Healthy, is technically voluntary; but those refusing to participate in it will be penalized $50 a month per covered adult. In other words, it’s only voluntary if a couple wants to forego $1,200 a year.
Not surprisingly, few city employees wish to do that. As of late August, just a week before the enrollment deadline, nearly half of all eligible employees and spouses — 22,000 — had signed up, with another 25,000 still undecided. Only 54 employees or spouses had at that time flatly refused to participate, according to Emanuel.
After signing up for the program, each enrollee must undergo a free biometric screening, including blood work. Then he must complete a “Well-Being Assessment” — a term so important it’s trademarked — which the website describes as “a confidential questionnaire that assesses life and environmental factors that are critical to your health, well-being and your ability to improve both.” It consists of 60 questions in the categories of “basic health history,” “mental health and stress,” and “barriers to change.”
Next the enrollee will receive a “health check-in call” from a disease-management company and be given a list of “wellness activities” that he must perform for at least 15 minutes each month. “Coaches [will] ride herd over workers on a bi-monthly basis to make certain they’re following their prescribed nutritional, medical and physical fitness regimens,” reported the Chicago Sun-Times. “Those who refuse to participate [will] see their monthly premiums rise by $50. Those who meet their goals could see similar reductions.”
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Photo of Mayor Rahm Emanuel: AP Images