MT County Pays Cash for Lost Pounds

December 1, 2005 ( - One Montana county is attacking the problem of county employees with extra poundage by giving them the best incentive around to shed it: cash money.

It’s all part of a program being run by Missoula County’s self-funded health plan and calls for participants to get $10 for every pound that comes off, the Missoulian newspaper reported.

The newspaper said that people who sign up for the new pilot program must first join Weight Watchers, attend meetings, reach their goal weight and become a lifetime member. To become a lifetimer, Weight Watchers members must follow a maintenance program for at least six weeks and be no more than two pounds over their goal weight.


“Being overweight affects so many other things: blood pressure, the heart, joints, diabetes,” Joyce Blatherwick, risk-and-benefits administrator for the county, told the newspaper.

Fifty people were accepted into a pilot program, set up for 2 1/2 years and funded by fees from health-plan participants.

The county soon added 10 more slots and started a waiting list. As people reach their goal and end the program – or drop out – others will be added, Blatherwick said.

A few children signed up, which is especially encouraging, she said. Catching weight problems early and teaching children how to choose healthy foods could make a dramatic difference in their lives.

“We don’t cover weight loss in the county medical plan,” Blatherwick said. “This is a way to encourage people; it just gives them an incentive. If it takes them two years to achieve it, fine.”

Participants in the county’s pilot program pay their own fees to join and attend weekly Weight Watchers meetings. People who have more than 50 pounds to lose get some cash back after their first 50, “our way of saying don’t get discouraged,” Blatherwick said.