County looks to cut fat, literally

Published 12:05 am Saturday, June 9, 2012

NATCHEZ — Adams County’s government is looking to save money wherever it can, and that includes trimming the fat, literally.

In early May, Supervisor Mike Lazarus brought the idea of a weight-loss contest for county employees to the board of supervisors. Many companies offer incentives to motivate their employees to be healthy, he said.

The supervisors have since then been raising a cash prize — approximately $900, collected from among the supervisors themselves and other donors — and other prizes, such as gym memberships, to tempt employees into workout clothes and onto exercise bikes.

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Adams County’s government uses a self-insured insurance structure to offer its employees health care benefits, and thus the county budget is directly affected by employee health.

“My goal in the end is that we save on our health insurance,” Lazarus said. “Any motivation we can give (employees) to lose weight ultimately is good for us, but it is also good not just for the ones trying to win the money, but for the ones who want to be healthier — nobody wants to spend the last years of their lives in the hospital.”

Supervisor Angela Hutchins said the supervisors have the aim of offering the healthy-living experiment at no cost to the county, and that the prizes they are offering are donated.

In addition to getting employees to exercise, Hutchins said the county’s insurance company will send in a cooking expert to teach employees how to cook healthy foods.

Keeping employees healthy not only saves on health costs, but also will help keep county services more efficient as the county sees less lost time from employees who have to take off for health problems, Hutchins said.

“All of this can help us with the cost of our insurance, but also, keeping our employees healthy means that the healthier (they) are the less they have to go in for screenings and things,” Hutchins said.

Natchez Regional Medical Center is partnering with the county for the program, offering weigh-ins and body-mass-index readings, Lazarus said.

And if it goes well, Lazarus said a similar program might be opened to the public.

“We are the guinea pigs for this program,” he said. “(NRMC is) going to see how it will work, and then open it to the public.”