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Yoga, Anyone...? Wellness Options Grow

Photo above: EASTCONN Teaching & Learning staff enjoyed a meditative yoga session, sponsored by ECHIP, at a recent work retreat.  


Eastern Connecticut’s first regional employee health insurance collaborative is actively promoting healthy lifestyles for members with on-site classes, health fairs, wellness seminars, and other programs that encourage employees and their families to make healthy choices. 

The collaborative, called the Eastern Connecticut Health Insurance Program (ECHIP), enables members to stabilize and manage their costs. ECHIP’s 4,000+ members include employees of EASTCONN, and both the municipalities and school districts of Coventry, Tolland, Putnam and Plainfield. ECHIP towns and districts have saved an average of 10% yearly on their insurance costs since the collaborative began in 2012.

“ECHIP is running so smoothly that we can think proactively about ways to help employees and their families become even healthier,” said ECHIP Administrator Larisa Carr, who manages ECHIP for the collaborative. 

“If we can all hold the line on insurance claims because our employees are making healthy lifestyle choices, then our insurance renewal rates are lower and we keep our premium costs in check,” Carr said. 

“It’s a win-win for everyone.” All ECHIP members and their families have access to free, online, health programming, as well as flu-shot clinics, and health fairs, Carr said. Members can also participate in health-risk assessments on a new employee ECHIP Web site. 

“Each ECHIP member has to figure out what health programs work best for its employees,” said Carr, “and everyone reports that voluntary participation in wellness programs is solid and growing.”

At EASTCONN, ECHIP supports a range of activities, including yoga classes, lunch-‘n-learns and seminars on topics like cancer, diabetes, sleep, stress reduction and healthy-cooking. EASTCONN has offered health fairs and incentivized walk/bike/run/paddle challenges, and will do so again in 2016-2017. 

Plainfield employees participate in health fairs, walking and wellness activity-tracking, as well as yoga classes, said Darlene Hill, who coordinates ECHIP initiatives for Plainfield. “We believe with the right motivation, knowledge and tools, staff will succeed at maintaining a healthy lifestyle,” she said. 

Beth Bauer coordinates Coventry’s programs, including health fairs, yoga, Weight Watchers subsidies, cooking and nutrition demonstrations and free access to town kayaks. A fitness challenge is in the works. “Wellness is a key component of our health insurance program,” said Bauer. “Our goal is to prevent what is preventable and diminish the negative impact of illness when it can’t be prevented.”

Tolland cuts insurance premiums by up to 3% for employees who meet certain wellness criteria, according to Michael Wilkinson, who coordinates Tolland’s initiatives. “Tolland sees wellness programs for employees as an integral part of our overall health insurance strategy,” he said. Tolland offers wellness classes, cooking sessions, health screenings, online lunch-‘n-learns and exercise programs. 

Putnam subsidizes Weight Watchers memberships, health fairs, walk/bike/run/paddle challenges and yoga. They also partner with Day-Kimball Hospital on wellness programming. 

To learn more, contact Larisa Carr at lcarr@eastconn.org, or at 860-455-1546. Visitwww.echipct.org.


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