UK Benefits and Health & Wellness Cap Multi-Year Initiative with Koop Award Recognition

While the University of Kentucky's (UK) Health & Wellness program recently received national recognition from the national C. Everett Koop Award organization (view our press release) — our overall success in developing innovative health benefit and wellness programs was hardly news to our employees, our state or a number of our benchmark institutions, which have studied UK's approach to wellness, benefits and disease management. As part of the Human Resources division, Health & Wellness and Benefits staff have worked to develop complementary programs that share a common goal: actively engage employees in improving health and managing medical costs.


In support of its broader mission and goals, the University of Kentucky is in the midst of a multi-year effort to model truly cost-effective health care strategies by engaging faculty and staff as active partners. Our success in this effort is evident on a number of fronts.

  • Benefit initiatives resulting in lower than average health benefit plan premiums: With the creation of various Health & Wellness Programs along with strategic benefit health plan design changes, specifically a move to "self insurance" - both designed to improve health and contain costs - the University has been able to maintain an annual average health plan premium in the single digits, well under the national average increase over the same period of more than 10 percent (source: Mercer Consulting). A major factor in these savings involved more active management of prescription drug benefits: Between moving to a "coinsurance" structure to encouraging greater use of generic prescription drugs (and free Help with Your Medicines prescription counseling), the University saved $1.6 million in the last fiscal year alone.
  • Multi-dimensional wellness initiatives, award-winning health "incentives": UK's Health & Wellness program has demonstrated the value of offering employees a full array of wellness opportunities. For starters, employees enjoy a variety of self-directed options, from on-site fitness classes to weight loss and stress management programs, among others. To assist employees with chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, UK Benefits has partnered with faculty from UK's College of Pharmacy to assist individuals with lifestyle and disease management. The recent Koop Award recognition specifically highlighted the Healthtrac Rewards program, which pays participating employees a tiered financial incentive (up to $15/month) for documenting health and diet-related behaviors. A core component of Healthtrac Rewards is phone-based outreach from Personal Health Coaches, who may recommend a menu of available Health & Wellness programs, customized based on individual employees' health profiles. 


UK's leadership in human resources, benefits and wellness has been demonstrated in recent years with far lower than average health plan cost increases - all the more remarkable given that the University's 12,000-plus employees are located in a region where rates of smoking, obesity and other health risk factors tend to be worse than the national average. The ability to better manage costs is a clear indication that UK employees are making more efficient use of medical resources - and ultimately, leading healthier, more productive lives. 

A snapshot from recent Healthtrac Rewards data also features some compelling statistics, with current participants reporting the following:

• 5% fewer smoking
• 15% more reporting physical exercise
• 33% increase in exercise minutes/week
• 53% increase in women age 52+ receiving mammograms
• 28% improvement in confidence about ability to improve health
• 5% decrease in self-reported medical costs

For more information on any aspect of this program, or to arrange interview(s) with UK Human Resources, Benefits or Wellness experts, please contact Gail Hairston of UK Public Relations at (859) 257-3109 or

View the timeline highlighting recent development of UK Benefits and Health & Wellness programs.