EBD is progressive. We continually improve the quality and cost-effectiveness of the services and the products we offer.
State Wellness Program
EBD works hard to balance benefit levels, cost, and choice. However, successfully managing health benefits today involves more than plan design and cost management. It involves building a “culture of health” by providing a resource for State employees to successfully manage their health. In January 2006, EBD implemented the OKHealth Wellness program as a resource for employees to address health risk factors, which contribute to preventable illnesses. By promoting healthy lifestyle choices and encouraging behaviors and attitudes among employees that are essential to good health, the OKHealth program will lower health utilization, which in turn will lower health insurance premiums.
The OKHealth program offers employees a unique and effective solution for better health by incorporating wellness, disease management, and health mentoring into a single, comprehensive wellness-mentoring program. Employees are required to complete a detailed health risk assessment, which stratifies participants into one of five risk tiers, based on potential health problems. Each risk tier determines the frequency of mentoring as well as goals and action plans for the employee.
In 2006, more than 6,400 employees expressed an interest in the program with 70 percent of those employees completing the health risk assessment. With a dedicated staff of eight professional health mentors, employees participating in the program at twelve weeks have already been successful in lowering elevated systolic and diastolic blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, weight, blood glucose, and cigarette smoking.
The OKHealth program is part of Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry’s State health initiative for a Strong and Healthy Oklahoma. The Governor announced bold reforms to help our State employees stay healthy and set examples for all Oklahomans. “You know as one of Oklahoma’s largest employers, State government must lead the way,” said the Governor. “And we must create an effective health program for State employees. I am very proud of the Employees Benefits Council that has lead the development of an innovative, successful initiative that will offer every State employee the opportunity to learn how to take control of their health. The idea is to get people excited about health, to actually encourage healthy habits in State government, throughout the largest employment system in the State of Oklahoma. Think about the way we have approached things in the past. Most State agencies have smoking breaks—smoking breaks!
Why not, walking breaks? I think walkers should have the same opportunities that smokers have. It’s a simple, simple thing to implement.”
Each year, the Oklahoma Office of Personnel Management hosts Quality Oklahoma Team Day to recognize successful projects that instill excellence in all day-to-day State operations and activities throughout State government. During the May 2, 2006 Quality Oklahoma Team Day awards ceremony held at the State Capitol, the OKHealth program was awarded the prestigious Team Day Specialty Award for Motivating the Masses. The Specialty Award is presented to the project that involved a large amount of people, agencies, and partners.
Benefits Administration System (BAS)
EBD is very proud of its Benefits Administration System (BAS). This unique, customized system is unlike any other in the country. The previous benefits system had limitations inherent with a mainframe environment. For example, the old system had in excess of 100 screens making it cumbersome for all who used it, particularly, the 200-plus statewide Benefit Coordinators. This system was replaced by BAS in 2002.
EBD now houses and maintains the new Internet-based benefits system. The system uses state of the art technology to provide a user-friendly environment, a convenient method to access benefits-related information, faster online data entry, more effective interface with other agencies and carriers, and far superior accounting and reporting capabilities. BAS interfaces with the State’s PeopleSoft computer network known as CORE. Governor Brad Henry awarded EBD with a Governor’s Commendation for successfully implementing the customized Internet-based Benefits Administration System. During a Quality Oklahoma Team Day awards ceremony held at the State Capitol Building on May 8, 2003, EBD earned the Quality Oklahoma Red Tape Reduction Award for the new benefits system. In the Quality Oklahoma Awards for 2006, The BAS Online Enrollment Module was runner-up in the Motivating the Masses and the Red Tape Reduction Award.
All State agency Benefits Coordinators have been trained on the new system and currently use it to process new employee benefit enrollment and mid-year change information for existing employees. In addition, all employees can use the online enrollment each year to enter their benefit elections, verify their flexible spending accounts and peruse the State’s online benefits enrollment system. This is the fourth year EBD has made the online system available to nearly 37,000 active State employees. As the benefits office for State employees, EBD completed the 2009 option period for Plan Year 2010 with more than 75 percent of statewide employees choosing their benefits online. In surveys, of which 11 percent of employees participated, the online enrollment was given high marks with 99 percent of employees recommending online enrollment to other employees.
Pretax Benefit Purchases
EBD provides State employees a valuable benefit through taking advantage of a federal law that permits employers to make benefits choices available to employees without subjecting those employees to taxation on the amount contributed toward the purchase of benefits. For Plan Year 2007, State employees used this tax strategy to purchase more than $350 million in benefits.
Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) Savings
The State of Oklahoma and its employees have saved an average of $4.41 million per year in Social Security and Medicare FICA taxes through the benefit plans offered by EBD. Employees participate in their benefit plans on a pretax basis thereby reducing FICA taxes. This method of offering benefits will continue to be a tax savings measure [See Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) Savings (64K)].
Flexible Spending Accounts
You can also take advantage of additional tax savings through participation in EBD’s flexible spending health and dependent care accounts. The amount placed in these accounts lowers your income subject to taxation. These accounts allow you to contribute to an account before taxes to fund certain qualifying medical and dependent care expenses. For Plan Year 2007, combined contributions to these accounts were approximately $13.9 million. Participation in these accounts amounts to significant tax savings for State employees. These funds can be distributed automatically through our direct deposit services. Over 10,475 employees have utilized a flexible spending health care account during Plan Year 2007 for health-related expenses and over 714 State employees utilized a dependent care account [See Flexible Spending Health Care Accounts (64K) and Flexible Spending Dependent Care Accounts (69K) ]. State employees can access their flexible spending account information by accessing the "Flexible Spending" menu option located on the upper left portion of this screen.
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