Lubbock City Council members were floored by a report from its health plan director Tuesday.
Fewer than two out of five city employees take advantage of their free annual physicals, including firemen and police who have mandated screenings each year.
For this fiscal year, the city is paying out $22 million in health care claims. Council members are pushing employees to take better care of their own health so it's not paying out on the back-end. In order to do that, staffers plan to offer ways to incentivize wellness. They're considering days off for screenings and even reducing employee insurance costs if they're proactive.
City Manager Jarrett Atkinson already warned council since the city's payment is expected to go up, the benefits may change in the next couple of years.
"It's not for what they do for the city -- it's for their live, it's for their spouse, it's for their kids, their grandkids, it's for who they are as a person," Mayor Dan Pope said. "The world should have as good of health care as people that are on this plan do. It's a fabulous plan and we need to really make sure we're taking advantage of it."
Councilman Randy Christian, who's fighting his third battle with cancer, was irate at the report. He said he'd support even penalizing employees who don't take advantage of the plan.
"I know a lot of people that would like to have free health care screening. The more I think about it the angrier I get," Christian said. "That's unfair to them, it's unfair to their families and it's unfair for the City of Lubbock. It's costing us a fortune, and as the mayor said it's costing people their lives and it's costing them their quality of life too."
Fire Chief Shaun Fogerson testified before council to the success of its mandatory screenings. Those are done at national standards and include medical and physical fitness tests. He says those have saved lives at Lubbock Fire Rescue.