Proposed Loudon health program goes too far, official says

One Loudon County commissioner says he's all for saving the county money on health insurance, but he's not yet ready to live in a "nanny state."

Commissioner Austin Shaver said he objects strongly to provisions of a proposed new "wellness" program for county employees that would include fines for not participating or failure to comply with its recommendations.

"First among my concerns is that this is something that is beyond the purview of any government - local, state, federal or one-world," Shaver said.

The wellness clinic, which was discussed at a commission workshop earlier this week, would be operated by Living Well Health Solutions LLC of Charlotte, N.C.

Following an initial screening, the employees would be given a health report card along with recommendations for improving their health. There would be certain incentives to encourage employee participation, including a proposed $40 fine for failure to attend or comply with the clinic's recommendations. Such recommendations might include the goal of walking or running for 30 minutes per day, several days a week.

"If the government can start fining me for not working out, I am first going to go broke very quickly, but more importantly, there will be no way to draw any lines as to what else they can control in my life," Shaver said.

According to Chris Wampler, independent insurance agent for Loudon County, the purpose of the program is to save money and improve the health of county employees.

"We're moving toward managed health instead of managed health care," Wampler said.

The clinic would be operated at a cost to the county of $68,952 per year. Employees would be charged $25 per month as well as a one-time screening fee of $38 per employee.

Loudon County could see a cumulative savings of more than $1.6 million over a five-year period in reduced lost-work time and primary care cost savings, Wampler said.

Several county commissioners, including Harold Duff and Nancy Marcus, expressed support for the wellness clinic, noting that the county pays 90 percent of employees' health insurance costs.