A.H. Belo to employees: You’ll pay for not leading a healthy lifestyle

smokingA journalist who works for A.H. Belo — owner of the Dallas Morning News, Providence Journal and other publications — tells Romenesko readers: “I wanted to pass along this health benefits letter AH Belo employees received yesterday requiring biometric screenings. Next year employees will have to pass three out of five unspecified health goals or pay a $150 (per month?) surcharge.”

Here’s one passage:

In 2014, we will again require biometric screenings; however, the scope of the biometric screening will change. To avoid a surcharge in 2015, enrolled employees and their covered spouses/domestic partners must take the biometric screening in 2014 through Quest Diagnostic and pass three of five risk factors. Tobacco use, or any form of nicotine use, will continue to be a separate $75 per month surcharge for both the employee and the covered spouse/domestic partner. Additional details regarding the five risk factors and the potential 2015 surcharge will be provided later this year.

The letter is after the jump.
Dear Employees,

Over the past several years, A. H. Belo has strived to help our employees become more health conscious. Our goal for the Company’s benefit plans continues to be improving the health for our employees and their families, which in turn will result in lower claim costs. As we stated before, we must strike a balance between maintaining a competitive and comprehensive health care plan, keeping our employees healthy, and keeping our business financially strong and growing. A. H. Belo has worked to find solutions to reduce the increase in costs year-over-year to the Company and its employees, while still offering great benefits.

We realize the daily demands of life and work can make it hard to live a healthy lifestyle. Sometimes knowledge is half the battle – if you know your personal health risks, you can make changes to improve your health. If each of us improves our health – or reduces our risk – we all win by having improved long-term health as well as lower claim costs.
To that end, we implemented a biometric screening requirement in 2013 for all employees and their spouses/domestic partners enrolled in the Company medical plan. To avoid a $100 per person surcharge in 2014, enrolled employees and their covered spouses/ domestic partners must complete their biometric screening through Quest Diagnostic no later than September 30, 2013. The $75 per month per person tobacco use (nicotine) surcharge will also apply if you do not complete the biometric screening to confirm no tobacco use. Newly eligible enrolled participants must have this screening within two months of becoming enrolled in the medical plan.

In 2014, we will again require biometric screenings; however, the scope of the biometric screening will change. To avoid a surcharge in 2015, enrolled employees and their covered spouses/domestic partners must take the biometric screening in 2014 through Quest Diagnostic and pass three of five risk factors. Tobacco use, or any form of nicotine use, will continue to be a separate $75 per month surcharge for both the employee and the covered spouse/domestic partner. Additional details regarding the five risk factors and the potential 2015 surcharge will be provided later this year.

Each year medical spending continues to increase. Next year alone, A. H. Belo expects to spend $14,000,000 for medical claims. Studies show that 60% of these costs are lifestyle related and these are costs that can often be controlled. While A. H. Belo and our employees cannot impact medical inflation and what happens in the marketplace, we can work together to take actions to improve our long-term health which is why we’ve made the changes regarding individual responsibility and biometric screenings.

The BCBSTX Consumer Driven Health Plan (CDHP) and the Fidelity Health Savings Account (HSA) will remain in place for 2014. We will continue to make Company contributions to the HSAs for eligible participants of up to $500 annually for those with individual medical plan coverage and up to $1000 annually for those covering dependents on the medical plan. You do not have to contribute to the HSA to receive the Company contribution.

The Kaiser HSA-Eligible HMO medical plan will continue to be offered. There is not a company contribution to your HSA if you are enrolled in the Kaiser plan.

To help our participants be more informed regarding the cost of certain procedures, we are adding the Benefits Value Advisor program to the CDHP medical plan in 2014. By contacting BCBSTX prior to scheduling any outpatient procedure, a participant will be given locations of facilities providing the procedure and the cost at each facility. Cost can vary significantly and this tool will help you to make an informed decision. This program does require participants to contact BCBSTX prior to having an MRI or CT Scan. If BCBSTX is not contacted prior to having the MRI or CT Scan, the medical plan will impose a surcharge. However, you will still have the choice to select where the procedure will
be performed.

We are making a change to the pharmacy formulary list in our CDHP plan for 2014. Our plan will use the Generics Plus Formulary which has fewer brand-name drugs than our current formulary. The Generics Plus Formulary includes clinically approved generic drugs plus a select number of brand-name drugs (brands are only included when a generic is not available to treat a specific medical condition or the brand-name drug offers a significant advantage over available generics). We will have the Generics Plus Formulary list available during Open Enrollment. Participants do not have to change pharmacies.

We are committed to a long-term approach to ensure that A. H. Belo’s employees stay healthy and become better consumers of health care. We strongly believe that biometric screening and overall knowledge of your health risks will result in a healthier workforce and, ultimately, contain or mitigate cost increases in the future.

Watch for more information and meetings in the coming months to help you better understand your benefits. For information regarding the CDHP medical plan and pharmacy, HSAs and how they work, along with other benefit information, visit www.ahbelobenefits.com. For questions, call A. H. Belo Benefits at 214-977-5911 or toll-free at 1-877-235-6242.

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