Dane County will save $1 million in health care costs for the 2009 budget, but employees will not see a decrease in care coverage, officials say.

“The health care plan stays the same for the employees,” said Joshua Wescott, spokesperson for Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. “We were able to work out the new deals with incentives for wellness and prevention.”

Falk announced last week that the county signed a three-year contract with Physicians Plus Insurance Corporation, which does not include rate increases but offers incentives for being involved in health and wellness programs.

Josh Quinn, media relations manager for Physicians Plus, said customers are eligible for reimbursements if they are proactive in losing weight, quitting smoking and stress management.

“[Physicians Plus’] entire mission is wellness in the community,” Quinn said. “[We] try to get people to take advantage of preventative care programs.”

Quinn said the costs for anything, from joining Weight Watchers to fitness club memberships, is covered by the plan.

The costs of health care have decreased in part because of these new incentives, but also because Dane County is signing a three-year contract rather than a one-year contract, Wescott said.

“It’s like buying in bulk,” Wescott said, making an analogy to going to the store and purchasing five boxes of something for a cheaper price than buying just one.

According to a statement released by Falk, the 2009 budget is the second toughest budget she has put together.

While Falk has cut costs in health care, she has increased spending in other areas.

Falk has already allotted $600,000 to the 911 Dispatch Center for seven additional employees and a new priority dispatching software.

The additions to the 911 Center come on the heels of intense scrutiny Falk and recently retired 911 Center director Joe Norwick faced after a mishandled phone call from UW junior Brittany Zimmermann’s cell phone on the day she was killed in her downtown apartment.

The cuts to the health care costs make additions to the 911 Center’s budget more feasible during what Falk said are “hard economic times.”

Neither Wescott nor Quinn could say anything about the terms of the contract apart from the care will not be sacrificed.

“Obviously, we’re trying to prevent chronic illnesses,” Wescott said, adding he thinks the new plan will encourage Dane County employees to have healthier lifestyles.