Mayor Rahm Emanuel is giving city workers an important health choice: enroll in a new wellness plan, expected to be unveiled Friday, or pay a higher premium.
The price if they don't enroll: $50 a month.
The program includes an initial screening that focuses on preventative care for asthma, heart disease and diabetes. City employees would then receive wellness training to achieve long-term health goals, including weight loss.
Smokers wouldn't be penalized, but they would be encouraged to quit. Advisers overseeing the program will monitor progress on a bimonthly basis, and those who reach their goals could see their health care premiums reduced.
"We will help you be a good steward for your health," Emanuel said Friday, "but if you choose not to, you'll pay that price and that is the price you'll have to pay."
The mayor believes the program will help cut the annual $500 million bill for health care for city employees.
"We are going to implement a citywide wellness plan for city employees," Emanuel confirmed at a recent press conference, "because health care costs for the city are being driven by 10 percent a year, and we're not seeing revenue grow that way."
Most city unions have signed on to the agreement, according to the Chicago Sun-Times, except the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents more than 10,000 city employees.
The FOP says its members have different health concerns and it doesn't want members to pay higher premiums if they decide not to enroll in the program.
But Emanuel says the program is a necessary step to getting healthcare costs under control.
"You can't ask the taxpayers to pay for a healthcare problem that you can manage and do a good job," Emanuel said. "You can do that with cholesterol, you can do that through diabetes, you can do that through smoking, through heart, blood pressure. Every one of those is manageable."