Emanuel proposes city wellness plan to cut health costs

Mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel says he would try to get employees to adopt healthier lifestyles as a way for the city to reduce health care costs.

December 20, 2010

By Ashley Gross

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(AP/file)

Rahm Emanuel says if he becomes mayor, he’d encourage city employees to get healthier. He says that could save the city millions of dollars.

Emanuel says he’d tailor a new city wellness program on ones run by companies like Johnson & Johnson. Those aim to help employees quit smoking, lose weight and bring chronic conditions like diabetes under control. Emanuel says he’d give workers financial incentives like lower co-payments if they stick to their programs.

"They will get the health care they’re supposed to get," Emanuel said at a press conference today. "But they’ll get much more affordable health care by doing the right thing."

Emanuel says the program could shave $50 million a year out of the health care budget. He says it would be strictly voluntary. But Lewis Maltby of the National Workrights Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, says programs like this can become coercive.

"What are you going to do when your boss says, `I want you to participate in the wellness program, of course, it’s voluntary, but I’m counting on you to enroll.' What choice do you have? If you don’t enroll, you could get fired," Maltby said.

Emanuel says there would be no penalties for failing to join.