By Jay Levine

CHICAGO (CBS) — Saving lives and money are the goals of a new wellness program for Chicago city workers.

Mayor Emanuel was among the first to get checked out today, even giving blood for the cameras, CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports.

Emanuel estimates the healthcare cost savings will total tens of millions of dollars a year, by targeting and helping the small percentage of workers who cost the city the most for their health care.

The mayor was joined by Cubs Hall of Famer Ernie Banks for the announcement of the wellness initiative, which Emanuel proposed during his campaign. It includes health screenings, well-being plans, health-risk coaching, challenges and competitions.

“Doing anything costs something, but in the end it saves money,” says Dr. Susan Hughes, who has studied wellness programs in the public and private sector.

“The only real question for me is, why did they wait so long to do it?” she added.

Conspicuously absent from the city employee unions signing onto the plan was the Fraternal Order of Police, which has its own wellness program, though few police officers are enrolled.

The mayor’s program targets preventable and treatable issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and obesity. Chicago is launching the largest program of its kind in the country, Emanuel says.

The program is free for city workers and their spouses or partners. But if they choose not to participate they have to pay an extra 50 bucks a person per month toward health care.

Watch & Listen LIVE