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A Common, Costly Toll

As we think about our future benefit design to drive health-related engagement, it’s essential to focus on what is principally ailing both our employees and our bottom line.

Today, preventable and treatable chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, back disorders, hypertension, and mental health/substance use are leading drivers of employer healthcare costs.

Our recently released study, Finding the Uncommon: Revealing Disparities in Care and Prescribing for Common Conditions, shows these conditions driving PMPM trend upward and highlights variances in care and prescribing affecting employee experience and outcomes. It further reveals that a focus on data averages alone will lead to incomplete conclusions; there are many healthcare variabilities and deliveries. his report shines a light on the variability along with quality and distribution of care in healthcare.    

It indicates that by studying which populations are most impacted by a specific disease, employers can lower their overall health spending by structuring targeted benefits packages that meet the needs of their workers. Such an effort is good business since one successful intervention can improve employee well-being and satisfaction, lowering both trend and overall healthcare spending while fostering a healthy and productive employee population.    

Most of you are aware that these common conditions impact at least 60% of your population.They are also responsible for most of your healthcare spending despite being preventable and/or treatable with lifestyle modification. The good news is that as employers, we can do something about them. As the goal of any well-being strategy should be to nurture and support a healthy, productive workforce, we explored opportunities to help jump-start employer strategy.

Education and Empowerment

Once you get a sense of what ails your employee population and where they are, you can get to work on educating and empowering them. Remember, though, creating and implementing targeted wellness and education programs to address common conditions will have a more significant impact than simple, general messaging.

Education requires the programming needs to speak directly to the specific demands of a particular population. For example, if you have an asthmatic population predominantly comprised of females, you will communicate and educate differently from a diabetic population primarily consist of males. Knowing what population segments can benefit from a specific health intervention is key to having your messages received. It’s also worth putting some thought into the particular employee segment’s needs and wants, motivations, and lifestyles. 

Other actions can also help bend the trend:

  1. Evaluate your current benefits plan. Design for opportunities to implement continuum-of-care protocols, which is an excellent way to avoid unnecessary surgeries or other invasive procedures often associated with back disorders and other musculoskeletal conditions.

  2. Cover medications for common conditions under preventive care, which can remove an essential barrier from your employee’s health journey and eliminate unnecessary emergency room or hospital visits.

  3. Create targeted communications for specific regions and demographics. 

Chronic conditions take a common, costly toll on an employer’s bottom line. As a membership-based employer-led coalition, Health Action Council has worked tirelessly to leverage the group’s collective data to share best practices in benefits administration and strategy. By bringing our data together and sharing insights that directly impact our employee populations, we can target those opportunities to intervene.

With 63% of our covered lives having one or more of these common conditions, we’ve calculated an estimated $2.5 billion in medical and pharmacy spend. If we could collectively make a 1% improvement in this area, it would not only positively impact thousands of lives; it would also save our members millions of dollars. That’s part of our common thread — reducing healthcare trends and our overall spend not only improves the health of our benefits budgets, but it is also a leading indicator that corresponds with healthy, happy, and productive employees.

For more insights, download Finding the Uncommon: Revealing Disparities in Care and Prescribing for Common Conditions.

Patty Starr bio image

About the author

Patty Starr

Patty Starr is president and CEO of Health Action Council and is responsible for driving the strategic direction of the organization--build stronger, healthier communities where business can thrive. 

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