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UnitedHealthcare Motion: Participating employees paid to walk

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By KRISTIN BIEN, WSBT 22

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (WSBT) - Some employees in northern Indiana are getting paid to walk.

An insurance company is paying out millions of dollars annually to participants who meet walking goals. At least two South Bend-area businesses are taking part. The idea is a healthier employee is a more productive employee.

John Hams spends a lot of time behind the wheels of giant trucks.

“I just run equipment and do whatever needs to be done to get the job done,” said Hams.

Hams is a foreman for John Boettcher Sewer and Excavating out of Mishawaka. While he is making money moving gravel, he is also earning cash when he is not.

“So far today I have 6,600 steps,” said Hams. “You make a conscious effort to walk more because you get rewarded for it for whatever you do.”

Hams is actually getting paid for taking steps thanks to a program through his employer group health insurance company, UnitedHealthcare.

UnitedHealthcare pays people like Hams to reach daily walking goals.

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“It follows the theme of UnitedHealthcare where we want to help people live healthier lives,” explains Suzanne Brown, an account executive from UnitedHealthcare.

The program is called UnitedHealthcare Motion. Participants wear fitness trackers and can earn $3 a day or more than $1,000 a year toward their health savings account.

According to the company, the program enables employees and covered spouses to earn financial incentives: $4 per day for HRA plans and $3 per day for HSA plans, based on achieving FIT goals, which stand for:

  • Frequency: complete 500 steps within seven minutes six times per day, at least an hour apart.
  • Intensity: complete 3,000 steps within 30 minutes.
  • Tenacity: complete 10,000 total steps each day.

At Electronics Incorporated in Mishawaka, lead accountant Kara Schmucker earned enough money through the program to pay for a needed surgery. It wasn't easy; Schmucker spends most of her day behind a computer.

“Now that I have made those small changes and I know what I need to do to meet the goals, it is easy to meet the goals,” said Schmucker.

Her coworker, Dave Barkley, had already begun to make lifestyle changes when he started the program. Now, he has lost 50 pounds and is getting healthier.

“I had high blood pressure but through the diet and walking, that has helped where I don’t have to take medication for that anymore,” said Barkley.

UnitedHealthcare has paid out over $30 million to participants since the program started.

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“A healthier employee is a more productive employee,” said Brown, who says ultimately this program is saving money for UnitedHealthcare and employers who are always looking for ways to keep health costs reasonable.

Participants say while getting healthy is part of the motivation, the extra money doesn't hurt.

“Every quarter when you get a check, it’s pretty nice,” said Barkley.

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