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Burnet County employees are being encouraged to break a sweat for savings on swelling health insurance rates. The Commissioners Court approved a new policy that will reimburse employees up to $40 a month on gym memberships in the hopes a healthier staff leads to a healthier budget.

The county has seen a 7.5 percent rise in insurance costs this fiscal year. Of that, 4.5 percent is from a statewide increase by the Texas Association of Counties Health and Employee Benefits Pool, but the other 3 percent is from the high number of health insurance claims from county employees. 

“If everybody got well and didn’t file as many claims, our costs would be reduced,” Burnet County Human Resources Director Shirley Bullard told “I don’t think anybody actually realizes how much we spend on insurance.”

Burnet County has about 345 full-time employees. At its current coverage rate, the county pays $1,000 per month per employee. 

“We’re working budgets now, and (the health insurance costs) affect everything; they affect all other departments,” Bullard said.

The Commissioners Court decided to adopt the gym reimbursement policy as well as a new county wellness policy on May 28 after a presentation from Texas Association of Counties Senior Wellness Consultant Ashley Whitfield.

“We’re using (the wellness policy) as risk reduction and a long-term strategy so that we’re able to reduce claims costs, which is going to then impact your year-over-year as well,” Whitfield said.

With the court’s approval, all Burnet County employees will be eligible to receive up to $40 in monthly reimbursement on a gym membership if they use the gym at least nine times a month.

Commissioners joked it could be difficult to prove employees are actually going to the gym, but the HR department’s Shelly Denton said she has coordinated with local fitness centers and determined attendance could be tracked effectively.

“I think we have a great work culture,” Denton said. “We’re just trying to encourage the employees to think with a healthy mindset.”