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June 22, 2006

SAC wants more wellness incentives

The Staff Association Council (SAC) wants Pitt to expand its Fitness for Life program to include other health initiatives as incentives promoting employees’ wellness.

Steve Zupcic said that the SAC benefits committee, which he chairs, is preparing a two-pronged proposal to submit to the University-wide medical advisory committee.

The advisory committee comprises faculty, staff and administrators who annually negotiate with UPMC Health Plan officials for the University’s health benefits options.

Zupcic’s committee is proposing that Fitness for Life include a directed weight loss program that would reward participants with lower premiums or other perks.

“So far, under the Fitness for Life plan we’ve had the lipid screenings participation resulting in a one-month premium holiday,” Zupcic said at the June 14 SAC meeting.

An approved weight loss program, possibly accompanied with an endorsed nutrition counseling program, would improve employees’ health and eventually cut costs for the individual, the University and the UPMC Health Plan, Zupcic argued.

“Nationally, 50 percent of adults are overweight and 30 percent are clinically obese, myself included,” Zupcic said.

Moreover, based on hospital statistics, Pittsburgh is one the country’s three most obese cities, he said. “We can only assume that the Pitt employee population reflects this situation.”

Since being overweight puts individuals at greater risk for a number of serious conditions, he added, it is in the interest of Pitt employees to be given incentives for losing weight.

“Our schools of nursing, public health and medicine have a number of successful, proven weight-loss programs already available,” Zupcic said. “We would like to have these put in system-wide under the health plan.”

Under a second proposal, Zupcic is recommending an expansion of the mental health services offered by the faculty and staff assistance program (FSAP).

“The University contracts with FSAP by the number of employees we have, not by utilization of service rates,” Zupcic said. “In fact, they’re looking to increase usage of their services.”

Under usual circumstances, FSAP limits the number of visits by an individual to six, a maximum that Zupcic would like to see raised. “To encourage usage of FSAP mental health care services would save money: It saves the co-pay, currently at $20, and it should save the University their 80 percent of picking up costs to see a mental health specialist,” Zupcic said.

“We would like to bring these proposals to the medical advisory committee when we meet in late July,” he said. “I would also note that we have the support of the Senate benefits and welfare committee on this too.”

The SAC committee dual proposal first would need approval of the SAC steering committee.

In other SAC developments:

• Zupcic reported that the expansion of Falk pharmacy delivery services to campus offices has been approved, although no date has been established to begin the service. Falk pharmacy delivery service currently offers on-campus delivery of prescription drugs ordered at Falk to employees at UPMC and Schools of the Health Sciences offices, but not to other Pitt schools’ employees. In July, Falk pharmacy is expanding in anticipation of more Pitt employees opting to use its services, Zupcic said.

“They’re also getting a new computer system to increase their capacity. And, I’m assuming, they will need to hire new staff. So there’s no exact date for when the service will be available, but it is coming.”

• Tickets for the July 30 Pitt Kennywood Day now are available. Tickets can be purchased through July 28 at the William Pitt Union, 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m. For information, call the SAC office at 412/624-4236.

• Beginning June 30, the SAC-sponsored Farmer’s Market will sell its wares on Sennott Street between Meyran Avenue and Atwood Street on Fridays 3-7 p.m. through the summer.

—Peter Hart

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