CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she has a new way to battle high insurance premiums for county employees.

As WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports, Preckwinkle says her new “worksite wellness” program won’t cost employees or taxpayers anything.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s David Roe reports

It even comes with a few perks, such as free music downloads, pedometers and even free massages, for employees who stick with it, she said.

Preckwinkle says the new program is aimed at cutting obesity and smoking – habits that contribute to problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The program is aimed at any of the 22,000 county employees who volunteer.

They will participate in health assessments that look at eating and exercising practices, and a walking program.

Preckwinkle herself says she will participate in the “Walking Works” sao challenge, which teams up employees of similar ages to compete, based on miles logged, for prizes each month.

Preckwinkle said the program — developed with the aid of Blue Cross Blue Shield and the blessing of labor leaders representing the largely unionized workforce — will be free to employees and won’t cost taxpayers anything.

As it is now, taxpayers pick up the tab for county government workers’ healthcare costs, around $300 million last year. The county’s budget is $3 billion.

About half of all healthcare costs are directly related to behavior, such as diet and exercise, Preckwinkle said.

The Chicago Sun-Times contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2012. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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