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Austell passes measure that pays employees to exercise | Health

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Austell passes measure that pays employees to exercise
Health, News
Austell passes measure that pays employees to exercise

AUSTELL, Ga. -- The Austell City Council decided Monday night to pay city employees $5 for each day they exercise one hour at the city's 24-hour-a-day gym.

Mayor Joe Jerkins said he proposed the plan due to the city's rising health insurance costs. Healthcare coverage for 100 employees will cost the Cobb County city about $1 million this year, he said. He expects that as employees get healthier, they will be filing fewer health insurance claims.

The measure passed 5-0.

Jerkins said he doesn't expect all 100 city employees to participate and estimates the city's cost at $50,000 each year.

Currently, he said, about 40 of the 100 employees are using the new, $100,000 city hall gym.

The cash bonuses begin immediately, and will be paid in December of each year.

Employees use an electronic card to access the gym -- their entrances are logged -- and video recordings will show whether they actually work out for an hour each time.

There was no discussion among the council members prior to voting. But a former Austell City Councilmember, Trudie Causey, spoke before the council blasting the plan, saying it will cost too much taxpayer money for questionable insurance savings.

Mayor Joe Jerkins called it money well spent for a healthier work force.

The City of Austell buys health insurance coverage through the Georgia Municipal Association.

An association spokeswoman told 11Alive News on Monday that more than a dozen local governments now pay incentives, in one form or another, to their public employees to participate in wellness programs. She said the City of Avondale Estates, for example, offers rewards, once a year, to employees who meet certain fitness goals that year, and the top prize is a one-week, paid vacation for one employee

She said there is no way to calculate how much money those local governments save in their health insurance premiums, but, in general, fewer claims results in lower premiums.

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