A non-profit group that promotes wellness initiatives is endorsing legislation that would hopefully lead to health insurance rate reductions for small businesses that offer their workers wellness programs. Dan Gable and Natasha Kaiser-Brown, two Iowa Olympians, are honorary co-chairs of Iowans for Wellness and Prevention. Gable is an Iowa State wrestler who won a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics and went on to coach at the University of Iowa.
Gable describes himself as a health and fitness fanatic. "So I’m a natural for this initiative. I’m a part of this coalition and a supporter of this legislation because wellness should be important to all Iowans," Gable says. "Wellness and prevention should be the cornerstone of our health care system." Iowans for Wellness and Prevention will undertake a public awareness campaign and sponsor a lecture series in the coming months.
Gable outlined the group’s core message. "We all need to take care of ourselves, eat right, be active and listen to our doctors," Gable says. Natasha Kaiser-Brown is a graduate of Des Moines Roosevelt High School who won a silver medal in track and field in the 1992 Olympics. She’s currently the men’s and women’s track coach at Drake.
"When I was first asked to be part of this coalition, I literally jumped…at the opportunity," Kaiser-Brown says. "My mother was obese. She was a smoker (and) died just over three years ago…I truly believe in the cause." Kaiser-Brown says she and her mother were very close, and she misses her. Kaiser-Brown urges Iowans to start thinking about living well. "Even though some of us seem to be fit and look pretty healthy, there are other issues that are hidden," Kaiser-Brown says.
Doctor Tom Evans, chairman of Iowans for Wellness and Prevention, says health care costs can be reduced if Iowans engage in healthier lifestyles. "Frankly, this is about engaging patients for change," the doctor says. Senator Tom Reilly, a Democrat from Oskaloosa, says the legislation would hopefully lead to more small businesses offering employee benefits that help workers kick the smoking habit or control their weight.
"Currently under Iowa law it’s very prohibitive for small employers to pass on wellness initiatives," Reilly says. "It’s a great concern of ours because when you take a look at what a key driver of soaring health care costs (is), it’s how we live our lifestyles."
Representative Dawn Pettengill, a Democrat from Mount Auburn, is working on the same legislation in the House. "We really do believe that wellness will drive down the costs of health care, so that’s what we’re focusing on," she says. The House subcommittee considering the bill has already met four times to hear testimony and consider how to craft the legislation.