As a recently retired employee of the University of Washington, I can well understand why WhidbeyHealth’s retired employees are upset to learn at the 11th hour of their former employer’s decision to drop health insurance coverage with the Public Employees Benefits Board (PEBB). I count myself fortunate that for over 32 years I have had insurance through PEBB, which because of its large base of more than 300,000 members, is able to negotiate affordable health plans, both for state employees and for retirees.
According to WhidbeyHealth CEO Geri Forbes, the PEBB system is “very old” and unable to “design, develop and implement targeted health programs to enhance the health and wellness of our current staff.” This is surprising to me, because the SmartHealth program that is one of the PEBB benefits is specifically designed to increase employee wellness. Using information supplied by employees in an annual confidential wellness survey, SmartHealth provides participants with targeted recommendations for improving their health and wellness. Over the years, I found my customized tips helpful, and I am glad I can continue to utilize this benefit as a retiree.
While much was made in the article of WhidbeyHealth’s desire to enhance employee health and wellness, another motive seemed to be mentioned almost in passing: “a potential financial benefit.” I can only wonder if that is the real reason behind the change. If I were an employee or retiree affected by this decision, I would want to know the truth.
Teresa Di Biase