Highmark Inc. Prepares Now for the Diversity Boom.

For decades, the nation’s demographic focus has been the baby boomers — more than 70 million of them — whose every move, walking to walkers, was ubiquitously anticipated.

Now, a boom of even greater proportion hovers on the demographic horizon. Minorities, presently representing roughly one-third of the nation, are projected to become the majority by 2042 and reach a population of more than 235 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The Hispanic population is projected to grow fastest; the African American population is expected to remain steady; and the white population is projected to shrink from about two-thirds currently to less than one-half. In addition, the 85 and older population is expected to more than triple.

Good-bye, baby boom. Hello, diversity boom.

“We’ve been focused on diversity and inclusion for several years as part of our corporate-wide strategic plan,” said Sara Oliver-Carter, director of corporate staffing at Highmark. “We’re strongly committed to diversity in our recruitment efforts as a matter of social responsibility and good business. It provides Highmark with a competitive advantage, enabling us to best serve our millions of customers, who are increasingly diverse.”

  • Among the company’s other diversity-related programs are:
  • diversity awareness sessions for all employees;
  • cultural competency trainings and events that have reached thousands
  • of employees;
  • health equity and quality services aimed at reducing health
  • disparities among customers;
  • and an award-winning supplier diversity program.

In recognition of its diversity initiative, Highmark recently received an award from the Profiles in Diversity Journal, which recognized the company with the “2010 Diversity Leader Award®” for demonstrating outstanding diversity communications practices during the last year. “This award is bestowed upon companies who are lighting the way in diversity practices, sharing their success stories and serving as a beacon to other companies to make a strong commitment to diversity,” said James Rector, publisher of the national journal.

The award places Highmark in the company of several Fortune 500 organizations.

Highmark Inc. serves 4.8 million members through its health care benefits business and 25 million individuals across the country are served through Highmark and its subsidiaries and affiliates. For more information, visit www.highmark.com.

Source: Highmark Inc.

Study Suggests Low-Consuming Medicare Beneficiaries With Chronic Disease Are More Costly to Program.

Findings released today and detailed in the analysis Low Consumption and Higher Medicare Cost: Consumption Clusters in a Medicare Fee-for-Service Population, examine how individuals utilize benefits and services under the Medicare program. The research suggests that beneficiaries with chronic diseases who consume the least of their Medicare benefits and services (referred to as “low consumers”) and potentially under manage their disease may experience an acute event that requires costly emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

The research, spearheaded by the National Minority Quality Forum (The Forum), analyzed Medicare data over a six-year period. The Forum found that Medicare beneficiaries may be clustered into five consumption groups (crisis consumers, heavy consumers, moderate consumers, light consumers and low consumers) based on how much Medicare reimburses for services provided to beneficiaries in any year. The two most-costly clusters are crisis consumers and heavy consumers — representing only 11 percent of Medicare beneficiaries, but 65 percent of all costs. These are dynamic clusters as consumption patterns among beneficiaries can significantly vary from one year to the next. Beneficiaries who are low consumers one year may become heavy consumers the next sparked by a critical and often costly health event. There is ample evidence that in the immediate future, significant increases in reimbursements may be anticipated for those beneficiaries with diabetes who rank among the lowest consumers of benefits. It is likely that similar patterns exist for those with other chronic diseases.

“The findings paint a new picture of the Medicare beneficiary living with a chronic disease and how that individual utilizes the program,” said Gary Puckrein, PhD., Founding Partner of the Diabetes Care Project and President and CEO of the National Minority Quality Forum. “If we can identify these patients, who are under-managing their chronic condition putting them at high-risk for disease complications, we can intervene to help these individuals manage their disease more effectively, and, ultimately, reduce overall health care costs.” One out of every four Medicare dollars is spent on beneficiaries with diabetes, with a high percentage attributed to tertiary illness caused by unmanaged or under-managed diabetes.

“We know that diabetes and other chronic conditions disproportionately affect the elderly, and with an aging population and a rapid influx of Baby Boomers entering the Medicare program, we need to better understand the barriers associated with managing their chronic diseases,” said James R. Gavin III, MD, PhD, CEO and Chief Medical Officer, Healing Our Village and Chairman Emeritus, National Diabetes Education Program. “If we can better understand our Medicare patients, we can help them achieve better health outcomes.”

The Diabetes Care Project (DCP), founded by The Forum, Roche Diagnostics and in partnership with the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) and Healthways, Inc., is a new coalition of patient advocates and health partners who are committed to dramatically reducing acute events that are a consequence of diabetic complications through early interventions and improved chronic-care management (www.diabetescareproject.org). In 2010, the DCP plans to undertake a series of projects that will help better understand the low consuming diabetic, and their impact on the health care system. The purpose of these initiatives is to offer guidance as to how policies, regulations, targeted interventions, education, and personalized diabetes care management plans may help improve patient outcomes and lower costs for the entire health system.

Diabetes is a growing public health epidemic affecting over 23 million Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, type 2 diabetes, fueled by rising rates of obesity, accounts for nearly 90-95 percent of all people with diabetes and disproportionately affects minority and aging populations in the U.S. (nearly 20 percent of Medicare beneficiaries have diabetes). The U.S. spends approximately $174 billion in annual total costs for diagnosed diabetes with $166 billion in direct medical costs.

Source: Diabetes Care Project

Humana and Accenture Join Alliance for a Healthier Generation Healthcare Initiative to Provide Comprehensive Health Benefits to Combat Childhood Obesity.

Humana and Accenture are boosting their commitment to the fight against childhood obesity by collaborating with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership between the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, to provide comprehensive health benefits for the prevention, assessment, and treatment of childhood obesity.

Humana will be working with select employers, including the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Kentucky Employees’ Health Plan (Humana’s largest commercial customer) to offer the benefit and study the results.

As part of its Live Well at Accenture initiative, Accenture will adopt the childhood obesity benefit recommended by the Alliance. Accenture will also work with the Alliance to explore additional communication and engagement approaches for its employees and their families around this issue

President Bill Clinton, founder of the William J. Clinton Foundation, who co-leads the Alliance with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and American Heart Association President Clyde Yancy, lauded the companies while encouraging other insurers and employers to join the commitment to the health and well being of children.

“To combat the epidemic of childhood obesity in the United States, we need to encourage innovative healthcare solutions,” said President Clinton. “Since launching these benefits through the Alliance Healthcare Initiative one year ago, more than 1.5 million children have gained access to these important services and Humana and Accenture’s commitment will bring us closer to our goal of reaching approximately 6.2 million children.”

The Alliance Healthcare Initiative marked the first time national medical associations, leading insurers, and employers have collaborated to combat childhood obesity. Eligible children have access to at least four follow up visits with their primary care provider and at least four visits with a registered dietitian per year (which, depending on the carrier, may occur through the physician’s practice). These healthcare professionals work with children and their families on how to establish and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“As a nation, we have to get ahead of the crushing burden of preventable chronic disease. Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States, and by joining the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthcare Initiative, Humana will be able to help make treatment more available to children and their families,” said Michael B. McCallister, President and CEO of Humana.

“In addition to providing this benefit to our employees as part of our overall wellness initiative, we are working with the Alliance to help accelerate understanding and broader adoption of the various Alliance programs,” said Stephen J. Rohleder, group chief executive of Accenture’s Health & Public Service operating group.

Recommendations released in January from the US Preventive Services Task Force, an independent panel of private-sector experts in prevention and primary care, spotlight the importance of screening children ages 6 to 18 years for obesity and clinicians referring patients as appropriate to programs to improve their weight status. These recommendations are aligned with the benefits the Alliance Healthcare Initiative offers children and their families.

In addition to brokering and implementing voluntary agreements with insurers and employers, the Alliance Healthcare Initiative is committed to informing the science base around effective clinical solutions to the childhood obesity epidemic. To that end, the Alliance selected Emory University’s Institute for Advance Policy Solutions to conduct a process and outcomes evaluation of the Initiative.

“By joining this Initiative, not only are Humana and Accenture providing groundbreaking health benefits; they are also participating in critical data collection and analysis,” said Clyde Yancy, MD, president of the American Heart Association and medical director for Baylor Heart and Vascular Institute and chief of cardiothoracic transplantation at Baylor University Medical Center. “By evaluating the implementation of clinical processes and the health outcomes delivered, we will be able to determine the most effective method for clinically combating childhood obesity.”

In addition to Humana and Accenture, the Alliance Healthcare Initiative participants include: Aetna, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Dietetic Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, PepsiCo and Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Aetna has recruited several employers to participate including Paychex. The American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation also offer this benefit to their employees.

About the Alliance for a Healthier Generation

The American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation joined forces in May of 2005 to create a healthier generation by addressing one of the nation’s leading public health threats – childhood obesity. The goal of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is to reduce the nationwide prevalence of childhood obesity by 2015, and to empower kids nationwide to make healthy lifestyle choices. The Alliance works to positively affect the places that can make a difference to a child’s health: homes, schools, restaurants, doctor’s offices and communities. For more information please visit: HealthierGeneration.org.

Americans Living Longer, Healthier Lives Due to Medical Innovation and New Therapies.

An article in the Journal Miner recently highlighted the fact that many people are living longer, healthier and more productive lives thanks to medical innovation and research.

“A strong, innovative and creative pharmaceutical research and biotechnology sector based in the United States is a real boon to American patients,” said Billy Tauzin, president and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).

For example, according to a study in Health Affairs, cancer patients live three years longer on average than thirty years ago; 83 percent of that gain is the result of new treatments. In addition, there was a nearly 50 percent decline in heart failure- and attack-related deaths between 1999 and 2005. The rate of AIDS deaths has fallen by more than 70 percent since highly active anti-retroviral therapies were developed, blood pressure medicines prevented 86,000 premature deaths from cardiovascular disease and avoided 833,000 hospitalizations for heart attack and stroke in just one year.

“American patients often get access to new and better medicines well ahead of patients around the world, and this homegrown innovation not only saves lives, it helps the American economy by employing millions of Americans and pumping billions of dollars into our local and national economies,” Tauzin said.

The Congressional Budget Office specifically identified America’s biopharmaceutical sector as “one of the most research-intensive industries” in America. Tauzin said, “It’s important to keep in mind that developing new therapies can be risky, expensive and time consuming. Creating a new medicine, on average, takes between 10 and 15 years and can cost $1.3 billion. But it’s an investment biopharmaceutical research companies make because nothing is as important as the search for new cures and treatments that help patients live longer, healthier lives.”

Source: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Web Site: http://www.phrma.org/

Sebelius Awards $100 Million to 10 States to Test Innovations in Children’s Health Care.


ealth and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced $100 million in federal grant funds to 10 states to improve health care quality and delivery systems for children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The grants, which will be awarded over a five year period, were funded by the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA). The money will help states implement and evaluate provider performance measures and utilize health information technologies such as pediatric electronic health records and other quality improvement initiatives.

“We all have a stake in the health of our nation’s children,” said Sebelius. “Exploring new technologies and initiatives will help ensure our kids get the high quality care they need and deserve.”

The grants are totally federally funded and are designed help establish a national quality system for children’s health care through Medicaid and CHIP.

“These grants will test the most current theories of how to improve the quality of care delivered to children,” said Cindy Mann, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations within CMS.  “These awards will help create the foundation for a more responsive and effective national system of high quality health care for children.”

Awardees represent both single-state projects and multi-state collaborations.  Grantees working in multi-state partnerships will share award funds with those partners with funding ultimately distributed among 18 states in total. The awards were granted to:

Lead State Partner(s) First-Year Award Five-Year Total Award
Maine Vermont $2,030,721 $11,277,362
Oregon Alaska, West Virginia $2,231,890 $11,277,361
Pennsylvania $1,934,754 $9,777,361
North Carolina $2,210,712 $9,277,361
Florida Illinois $880,371 $11,277,361
Massachusetts $1,496,542 $8,777,542
Colorado New Mexico $1,722,161 $7,784,030
Utah Idaho $2,877,134 $10,277,360
South Carolina $2,214,263 $9,277,361
Maryland Georgia, Wyoming $2,401,467 $10,993,171

Eight of the 10 grantees will test a new set of child health quality measures, and seven of the ten states will use the funds to implement health information technology (HIT) strategies with two states specifically planning to develop a new pediatric electronic health record format.

More information about CHIP can be found at www.InsureKidsNow.gov.

‘Innovation Initiative’ Underway for Health Records Improvements at the Veterans Health Administration.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki launched the “Veterans Health IT Innovation Initiative,” an employee-based Health Information Technology (HIT) competition to spur VA’s transformation into a 21st Century organization that is Veteran-centric, results-oriented, and forward-looking.

“This competition is rooted in the simple belief that the people who work on the front lines of VA know best how to improve health care and quality, access, and transparency in service to our Nation’s Veterans,” said Secretary Shinseki. “At VA, we always want to look for new ways to improve the care we deliver.”

From now until Feb. 28, Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Office of Information & Technology (OI&T) government and contract employees can submit their innovative ideas, comment on ideas, and vote on ideas. One hundred of the ideas will be selected and employees will be invited to submit full proposals.

“We’re looking to bring innovation back to our Health IT systems,” said Roger Baker, VA’s Assistant Secretary for Information and Technology. “This initiative will tap into the incredible talent across VHA and OI&T.”

The Innovation Initiative will allow employees to enter health information technology ideas in a variety of categories, such as engaging Veterans in their care, helping medical providers, increasing transparency, and improving workflow.

A series of screening panels will review the suggestions. Assistant Secretary Baker and Dr. Gerald Cross, VA’s Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Health, will select the top 25 ideas.

“VA’s health IT system has always been a collaboration among its community of health care users and a dedicated IT staff,” said Cross. “Many components of our electronic health records system originated in innovations from our health care workforce. This new competition offers employees the opportunity to make VA even more open and effective.”

In September 2009, Shinseki announced a similar competition for the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), encouraging employees to submit ideas on everything from speeding the processing times for disability claims to improving transparency. The winning ideas for the VBA innovation competition will be announced in February. The final selections will receive full funding for project development and execution at the Regional Offices submitting the idea.

Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Kaiser Permanente Honored in Fast Company’s Annual Most Innovative Companies Issue.

Kaiser Permanente has been honored in Fast Company’s annual Most Innovative Companies issue as the fifth Most Innovative Health Care Company in the World for its pioneering electronic health record that is the world’s largest civilian electronic health record, and for its health care innovation center that develops the future of health care.

Kaiser Permanente was recognized for its pilot medical data exchange program with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which enables clinicians from VA and Kaiser Permanente to obtain a more comprehensive view of a patient’s health using electronic health record information, including information about health issues, medications, and allergies.

The exchange program centers around Kaiser Permanente HealthConnect®, which gives the organization’s 14,600 physicians immediate access to a patient’s status and medical history, as well as decision support based on evidence-based practice guidelines and the latest medical research. Kaiser Permanente’s members easily and conveniently can make and reschedule appointments, check lab results, and send e-mails to care providers via My Health Manager, the online personal health record that connects directly with KP HealthConnect.

Fast Company also recognized Kaiser Permanente for its Sidney R. Garfield Health Care Innovation Center, the only setting of its kind that brings together technology, architecture, nurses, doctors and patients with human-centered design thinking and low-fidelity prototyping and design to brainstorm and test tools and programs for patient-centered care in a mock hospital, clinic, office or home environment.

Kaiser Permanente used the Garfield Center to develop the Digital Operating Room of the Future and an award-winning medication error reduction program. It’s also used to test disruptive technologies such as telemedicine, surface computing, robots, facial recognition, remote monitoring, video game consoles and a handheld computer tablet similar to the Apple iPad that Kaiser Permanente nurses and physicians have piloted in hospitals the last two years.

“This recognition is emblematic of a culture and spirit at Kaiser Permanente that enables the transformation of health care,” said Kaiser Permanente Chief Information Officer Philip Fasano, who was recently recognized by Computerworld as one of the top 100 IT Leaders for 2010. “Our electronic health record and Garfield Health Care Innovation Center are exciting examples of the innovation fostered throughout our organization and are the starting point in our journey to deliver real-time, personalized health care.”

Other major brands honored on the Fast Company magazine’s list include Cisco, Disney, and GE along with such rising newcomers as Spotify, Gilt Groupe, HTC, and the Indian Premier League.

To create this year’s Most Innovative Companies issue, Fast Company’s editorial team analyzed information on thousands of businesses across the globe. The result is a package unlike that of any other business media. It’s not just about revenue growth and profit margins; it’s about identifying creative models and progressive cultures — to define the many forms of innovation that exist across the business landscape.

Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies issue (March 2010) is on newsstands now, and is online at www.fastcompany.com/MIC.

Sebelius Unveils New Report on Requested Premium Increases in States Across the Country.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today unveiled a new report, Insurance Companies Prosper, Families Suffer: Our Broken Health Insurance System. The report highlights health insurance premium increases in states across the country and comes shortly after Anthem Blue Cross announced plans to raise rates on its California customers by as much as 39 percent, even after its parent company took in a profit of $2.7 billion in the previous quarter. The complete report is available at www.HealthReform.gov.

“Over the last year, America’s largest insurance companies have requested premium increases of 56 percent in Michigan, 24 percent in Connecticut, 23 percent in Maine, 20 percent in Oregon, and 16 percent in Rhode Island, to name just a few states,” said Sebelius. “Premium increases have left thousands of families that are already struggling during the economic downturn with an unpleasant choice between fewer benefits, higher premiums, or having no insurance at all. Hard-working families deserve better.”

The report examines requested insurance premium increases and notes:

* Anthem of Connecticut requested an increase of 24 percent last year, which was rejected by the state.
* Anthem in Maine had an 18.5 percent premium increase rejected by the state last year as being “excessive and unfairly discriminatory” – but is now requesting a 23 percent increase this year.
* In 2009 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan requested approval for premium increases of 56 percent for plans sold on the individual market.
* Regency Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon requested a 20 percent premium increase.
* UnitedHealth, Tufts and Blue Cross requested 13 to 16 percent rate increases in Rhode Island.
* Rates for some individual health plans in Washington increased by up to 40 percent until Washington State imposed stiffer premium regulations.

Health insurance reform will fix our insurance system, help drive down costs, put consumer power and choice in the hands of the American people, and ensure all Americans receive the health care services they need. Reform will:

* Place additional oversight on health insurance companies to ensure that people get value for the premiums they pay.  Insurance companies will have to report how they spend the premium dollars that they collect from their customers. If they spend too much on administrative costs and profits, they will have to give some of that money back to their customers. Insurance companies will also have to provide public justification for premium increases. Consumers can use this information to help decide whether they want to purchase a particular plan. And if insurance companies are not able to justify their premium increases, they could be barred from participating in the health insurance exchanges.

* End Arbitrary Limits Placed on Coverage by Insurance Companies. Under health insurance reform, families will no longer face lifetime limits to their benefits, nor will coverage be denied or watered down based on medical history. As a result, health insurance will provide real protection from high health care costs.

* End Insurance Company Discrimination. Health insurance reform will prevent any insurance company from denying coverage based on underlying health status, including genetic information. It will end insurance discrimination that charges families more if a family member has or had any illness, and limit differences in premiums based on age.

* Create Competition Among Insurers with a Health Insurance Exchange. Health insurance reform creates an “exchange” or marketplace for insurance competition that will drive down premium prices for Americans. The health insurance exchange will bring families and plans together into one organized marketplace so families can compare prices and health plans in order to decide which quality, affordable option is right for them. Health insurance reform will guarantee every American a choice of health coverage, even if someone loses a job, switches jobs, moves, or gets sick.

* Ensure Value in Our Health Care System. By rewarding high-quality and efficient care, encouraging care coordination, and reducing medical errors, health reform will slow the growth in health care costs and ensure value for every health care dollar spent.

* Lower Premiums. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that reform will streamline administrative costs of insurance companies and bring more people into the insurance market, lowering premiums of a comparable plan in the individual market by 14 to 20 percent. That means more money in the pockets of American families, and the security of having high-quality coverage.

“Premium hikes in California and across the country are a wakeup call,” added Sebelius. “It’s time for Congress to pass reform and hand control over health care decisions back to American families and their doctors.”

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

Simply Healthcare Plans of Florida Gets Equity Investment.

MBF Healthcare Partners, L.P. (MBF), a healthcare services focused private equity firm, announced its plans to invest up to $50 million of equity capital to support Simply Healthcare Plans of Florida, Inc. (SHP) an HMO based in Coral Gables, Florida.

The equity investment will be used to fund expansion and acquisition efforts in Medicare and Medicaid.  SHP is a licensed HMO in Florida that has been approved by the State to expand into the Medicare and Medicaid markets.  MBF is sponsoring a seasoned managed care team that is led by Peter Jimenez an exceptional executive with a long track record of value creation in managed care that has been credited with the success of two large HMOs in Florida, Physician Healthcare Plans, which was sold to Amerigroup Corporation in 2002 and Care Plus Health Plans, which was sold to Humana in 2005.  SHP is aggressively pursuing acquisition opportunities throughout the country while expanding its current operation and capabilities in Florida.

Mike Fernandez, Chairman and CEO of MBF said, “I believe that the current healthcare environment in the United States presents an opportune time to build and expand managed healthcare services. We believe that managed care can be an integral part in coordinating high quality healthcare services while controlling fraud and abuse in the healthcare system in State and Federal funded programs.  In addition, we believe that Medicaid will play an integral part in the Federal Government’s efforts to expand healthcare coverage to the uninsured population and that Medicare Advantage plans will continue to expand as the baby boomers reach the Medicare eligible age.  Well run managed care plans have proven that they can offer high quality services and benefits to its members while providing State and Federal government with predictable costs.   We are extremely fortunate that we have been able to assemble a team of senior executives who have a proven track record of success in managed care.  Peter Jimenez who is leading our executive team is an exceptional executive and we look forward to collaborating with him to capitalize on the opportunities created by the recent developments in the healthcare market. Our partnership with Peter and his executive team reflects another example of MBF’s current strategy in a changing private equity market to identifying highly attractive segments in healthcare services and partner with outstanding executives.”

About Simply Healthcare Plans, Inc.:

Simply Healthcare Plans, Inc., headquartered in Coral Gables, Florida, is a licensed HMO focused on providing Medicare Advantage and Medicaid managed care solutions and services.

Virginia Launches Healthy Lifestyle Competition for State Employees.

Virgina Governor Bob McDonnell today challenged more than 1,500 state employees to model living a healthy lifestyle by losing 10 pounds each in a 13-week team weight loss competition through the CommonHealth state employee wellness program.

The Governor introduced the healthy workforce campaign, the “Governor’s Challenge 2010,” during an Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield-sponsored talk by Bob Harper, health and fitness coach from “The Biggest Loser” NBC-TV show, at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.  Employees at 50 agency sites around the Commonwealth also participated via a videoconference courtesy of ValueOptions, Inc., which administers the state health plan’s behavioral health benefits.

“Why should you and I care about being healthy?” Governor McDonnell asked the state employee audience.  “We should care because of our family and friends. They depend on us and so does the Commonwealth. We should care because we want to be here and healthy for our spouses, children and grandchildren yet to come.”

Open to all state employees, the Governor’s weight loss competition will begin on Feb. 15 and end in mid-May.

C. Burke King, president, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia, said, “We are happy to bring Bob Harper to Richmond to deliver a motivational message and help kick off this great initiative. It’s promising to see more and more of our customers understand the benefits and importance of living a healthy lifestyle. We’re proud to partner with Governor McDonnell and the Commonwealth in setting the standard for others to follow.”

During the healthy workforce initiative, employees will compete in four-person teams and weigh in weekly, with support and encouragement from more than 700 CommonHealth state agency coordinators throughout Virginia. Final results will be reported and total weight loss posted on May 19, National Employee Health and Fitness Day.  The Governor will recognize the winners in June.

The Commonwealth has become a model employer among the states in advancing healthy lifestyles.  It was a leader in offering free wellness and preventive care benefits to employees and family members covered in state health plans. State employees last year lost a total of 24,000 pounds in a state partnership with Weight Watchers. In addition,  CommonHealth over almost a quarter century has initiated successful programs in areas such as smoking cessation, weight management, fitness and stress reduction.

SOURCE Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia