The state of Nebraska, which is a HealthFitness client, recently received the 2011 Innovations Award from The Council of State Governments for its wellness program.

In 2009, the state of Nebraska launched the award-winning program wellnessoptions, a fully integrated wellness program with lifestyle and chronic condition management aspects designed to encourage healthy behaviors. The Wellness PPO health insurance plan features 100 percent coverage of preventive health care, lower premiums and value-based health and prescription programs. HealthFitness, Minneapolis, supports the program with annual health risk assessments, on-site biometric screening, health coaching and lifestyle programs.

The program is available to approximately 20,000 eligible state employees and their spouses. State employees can enroll in the Wellness PPO and pay a lower premium rate, or they can choose from a selection of more traditional health benefit plans with higher premiums. The Wellness PPO has proactive eligibility requirements—employees and covered spouses (if applicable) must complete wellness program activities.

“The state of Nebraska has taken a truly innovative approach on behalf of its employees to encourage prevention and healthy behaviors and give them the resources to achieve their personal health goals,” HealthFitness President and CEO Paul Lotharius said in a release from the company. “The program’s positive outcomes show that investing in employee health produces healthier, more productive workers and can lower the health care cost trend.”

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman said in a release from his office, “This is a significant acknowledgement of our work at the state level to promote and enhance wellness. Nebraska can be proud to be recognized as having one of the only wellness-focused health care programs for state government in the country.”

Nebraska is among the first states to offer an integrated plan for health coverage tied to prevention and wellness. The program was initiated after years of double-digit cost increases, according to HealthFitness. Not only has enrollment in the program increased each year, but the state also recently had an increase of just 1 percent in its overall health care costs at a time when double-digit year-over-year health care cost increases are typical, according to the governor’s office.

The Council of State Governments gives the Innovations Award to states for the development and implementation of exemplary programs in hopes of transferring the successful experiences to other states for greater awareness and visibility.

In January 2011, the state of Nebraska also was awarded the Gold Well Workplace Award presented by the Wellness Council of America for its wellness program.