December 1, 2020

Webster University employee program offers discounted gym memberships

The Webster Wellness employee reimbursement program offers wellness credits to active, full-time Webster University employees — as well as their dependents — enrolled in United Healthcare (UHC) insurance coverage. The program allows employee reimbursement of 50 percent of the cost of gym memberships, personal training and fitness classes that occur each quarter of 2013.

Employees can also be reimbursed for fees associated with running in marathons as well as healthy eating programs, such as Weight Watchers. In total, Webster received $30,000 in wellness credit from UHC, and employees may be reimbursed up to $150 per quarter.

Cheryl Fritz, chair of Webster Wellness, said the employee reimbursement plan is a concession UHC has given Webster because of an administrative error UHC made about a year ago.

“It had to do with programming their system. It had to do with how we designed the plan and their inability to help support it that way,” Fritz said. “But the error was found after the plan year began. So they were willing to say, ‘We should’ve realized this prior to the plan year beginning,’ and they made some concessions to us.”

United Healthcare declined to comment on the record, but confirmed Webster Wellness reimbursement is the result of an error on the part of UHC.

About 900 people and their families are covered under the UHC plan at Webster. The reimbursement program was created because it allows a wide distribution of funds and it encourages people to join gyms and to get personal training. The reimbursement plan is also available to any Webster employee and their dependents covered under the UHC plan who are already members of a gym.

“If they’re already members of the YMCA and they pay X amount, they just need to put in an application and at the end of the quarter provide a receipt of what they paid, and we will pay 50 percent, up to $150 each quarter,” Fritz said. “We’re going to prioritize people who haven’t been reimbursed before people who have, so hopefully that allows for new adopters and new people who are just starting these kinds of things. We want to share these funds with as many people as we can.”

Webster Wellness reviews applications in the order the applications are received. The $7,500 in credits per quarter rolls over to the next quarter if it is not used.

“We’ve had 60 people submit applications, and there was close to $6,000 (allocated) for reimbursement for the first quarter and close to $3,000 for the second quarter already,” Fritz said. “Out of those, 47 felt like they were new adopters. It was the first time they had ever done something like this, so that was awesome. That’s a pretty large percentage.”

Ted Hoef, associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, said he has applied for reimbursement for his weekly personal training sessions. Hoef has worked out with a personal trainer since August 2010, and if he is approved for the reimbursement, it will help him maintain a key component of his health and wellness.

“I was terribly out of shape and overweight. I wanted to build strength as well as lose weight,” Hoef said. “I had never done any strength training previously, so I wanted to get good instruction in appropriate workouts for someone my age.

“I have found that my weekly visits are very effective in giving me both the proper instruction as well as providing a weekly check-in to keep me disciplined during my other workouts during the week.”

In addition to getting assistance from a personal trainer, Hoef also works out in the University Center Fitness Center on campus five days a week. He said this routine has increased his overall wellness.

“I initially lost 62 pounds without a major change in my diet,” Hoef said. “I also found that it had a significant positive impact on my energy and mental alertness, and helped me better deal with stress. All of this has helped me to be more effective in my job.”

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