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UK Tackles Rising Health Benefits Costs
With Unique Initiative

By Kathy Johnson

UK pharmacists Amy Nicholas, left, and Matt McMahan counsel retired UK employee Margaret Walters on prescription costs.

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"We will ask our employees to become more involved in their health care, empower them to make decisions that improve their health and reward them financially for doing so."

-- Lee T. Todd Jr.,
University of Kentucky

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Oct. 17, 2002 (Lexington, Ky.) -- University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd Jr. today announced a unique, new initiative to hold the line on the school's rising cost of health benefits by helping employees become better consumers of health care and health benefits.

UK's new Health Literacy Project involves several components including a new consumer-driven health benefit option in addition to the traditional HMO and PPO; pharmaceutical counseling; behavioral lifestyle counseling; and a major communication effort to educate the university community about health benefits and how to best select the various plan options.

"We will ask our employees to become more involved in their health care, empower them to make decisions that improve their health and reward them financially for doing so," Todd said.

University officials said they know of no other institution bringing together the components of consumer-driven health plans, prescription drug counseling, behavioral lifestyle counseling, and in-depth education in an effort to confront the rising cost of health insurance.

The university is partnering with the administrators of its self-funded health benefits plans, Humana and CHA Health, to provide new consumer-driven health plans. The new plans will be supported by an extensive educational effort.

An online program will help participants choose the best plan to suit their needs. Based on responses to questions, the program will provide a ranking of the plans and information for comparison of all plans. This assessment program will be piloted over the next two months and available to all participants by early 2003, prior to UK's benefits enrollment period which begins in April.

"We strongly believe that this forward-thinking focus on consumerism is a component that is extremely vital to maintaining the affordability and access to health care for both the employer and employees," said Rick Remmers, CEO, Humana-Kentucky.

"CHA Health welcomes the opportunity to offer University of Kentucky employees consumer-focused technology and a pro-active approach to health care. This is a foundation for the university and CHA Health to continue collaboration on the development of high quality, cost effective health benefits," added Mark Birdwhistell, CEO, CHA Health.

The Health Literacy Project also will keep participants informed about all their benefits options as well as opportunities to improve their own health.

The rising cost of pharmaceutical drugs has prompted the UK College of Pharmacy and the Kentucky Clinic Pharmacy to offer new programs to help relieve the financial burden for many employees and retirees.

The College of Pharmacy will offer a unique service called "co-pay counseling." A registered pharmacist will analyze a patient's prescriptions and determine if a less expensive generic drug could be used just as effectively. The pharmacist then makes that recommendation to the prescribing physician or health care provider.

Also, three months of maintenance medication is available for the cost of a two months' supply at the Kentucky Clinic Pharmacy. Other pharmacy outreach programs are planned for the future.
Another component of the Health Literacy Project is a new service offered by the UK Wellness Program called BeH.I.P. (Health Improvement Plan). It targets seven high risk conditions like tobacco use, sedentary behavior and diabetes, and provides written materials as well as ongoing personal counseling for healthier lifestyle changes. UK employees and retirees may enroll in BeH.I.P. on their own, or physicians may prescribe the BeH.I.P. program.

"It is our hope that after the success of the Health Literacy Project is established at UK, this initiative eventually can be applied broadly in the Commonwealth in such a way as to influence and improve the health of all of Kentucky's citizens," Todd said.

The Health Literacy Project is an outgrowth of recommendations by the University's Health Benefits Task Force, appointed soon after Todd became president in July 2001.

A Web site will provide more in-depth information in coming weeks.

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