ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — State employees will now be required to participate in a wellness program as part of their health insurance or pay a $50 annual penalty.

The Daily Record of Baltimore reports that the wellness-program requirement begins Jan. 1 for Maryland state employees, retirees, and covered spouses, affecting more than 250,000 people.

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The wellness-program requirements will be relatively easy to fulfill in 2015, but the requirements become more stringent in future years, as will the penalties.

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By 2017, the penalties could increase to as much as $450 for participants who fail to undergo required screenings and fail to adhere to treatment plans for chronic conditions.

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Anne Timmons, director of state employee benefits, said the wellness program is projected to slash the state’s costs by $4 billion over the next decade.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)