Jill Dobbe weighed more than 200 pounds after having two children, but a healthy-eating plan and exercise helped her get in shape. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

A motivated Jill Dobbe accepted a challenge from her employer and subsequently lost weight, ended a daily thirst for Mountain Dew and saved $1,000 in health insurance premiums.

Dobbe works for Genesis Health System in Davenport, which has introduced a new plan that includes wellness features to promote employees’ health. That, in turn, helps employers such as Genesis keep coverage more affordable for the work force. Genesis has about 5,110 full- and part-time employees in the Quad-City area.

The product from UnitedHealthcare is called the Heritage Premier Plan, and it is being introduced to the Quad-City business community by individual agents and brokers.

The plan includes preventative wellness screenings through the hospital system’s network of physicians and care providers. It is designed to identify serious health risk factors.

For example, if a participant is found to be at risk for metabolic syndrome, the plan puts them on a program to reduce weight and adopt a healthy diet.

Metabolic syndrome is defined as a cluster of conditions — high blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, abnormal cholesterol levels and excess body fat around the waist. If these conditions occur in one person, that individual is at a higher risk of developing heart disease, stroke or diabetes, according to the Mayo Clinic website, mayoclinic.com.

Dobbe, a strategic development consultant for Genesis, is married and the mother of two young children. She weighed almost 200 pounds after her second child was born and had elevated numbers in terms of three risk factors for metabolic syndrome.

Her worst habit was a passion for Mountain Dew. Dobbe would drink up to five of the soda pops each day. “That was my biggest bad habit,” she said.

She went cold turkey to cut out sweets and Mountain Dew at the same time. She ate her foods more slowly and drank water instead of consuming unhealthy snacks when she was hungry. And she exercised.

“Now I don’t have any risk factors at all,” she said, noting that the lifestyle change also affected in a positive manner her loved ones, including her husband and the children, who are 11 and 6 years old.

“It’s a good thing for the whole family,” she said.

The insurance plan for Dobbe’s family is also less expensive. She estimated that she has saved about $1,000 in premiums so far.

The product used by Genesis is not for every employer, said Dan Kueter, the president and CEO of UnitedHealthcare for Iowa and central Illinois. “We do expect significant interest from employers who are looking for more tools to help improve the health of their employees,” he added.

Product design was the result of requests and demands of the marketplace and does not reflect health legislation on the federal or state levels.

“The market has asked us for more products and innovations to improve employees’ health,” Kueter said, noting that the Heritage Premier Plan is the first in a series coming from UnitedHealthcare.

“We see this as a marketplace imperative, regardless of what happens in the legislative or regulatory arenas,” he added.

Doug Cropper, the president and CEO at Genesis, appreciates the program.

“It has made a difference in the health of many of our employees. Because of their improved health, we have been able to avoid the rapidly rising increases in health insurance premiums, too.”