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A new study has identified the top five health conditions that are driving the overall cost of group health plan outlays, and without which spending would actually be falling.
The report is enlightening, and employers can use the findings to offer programs aimed at education and prevention to help control their employees’ health care costs and cut into health insurance premiums paid by both employers and workers.
Inspecting its study data for trends, the Health Action Council (HAC) determined that 63% of its covered lives had at least one of five conditions that were driving health care costs. Most of these top five conditions are preventable or treatable with lifestyle modifications that employers can encourage.
Here’s a look at the five conditions and the burden they put on your employees and your company:
Average costs paid per member of the HAC for asthma treatment are increasing on average 6.4% a year. This is one of the most prevalent health conditions in the country. Three important stats:
- The incidence of asthma was 31% higher among women than men.
- The incidence of asthma among African American covered lives was 20% more prevalent than among other races.
- The average age of HAC members with asthma was 31.9, two years younger than the overall membership average age of 33.9.
Average costs paid per member of the HAC for diabetic treatment are also increasing 6.4% a year. Three important stats:
- Diabetes was 20% more common in men than women among the HAC’s enrollees.
- The average age of HAC plan enrollees with diabetes was 52.
- Although Asian covered lives amounted to only 3% of the HAC enrollees, they had the highest incidence of diabetes of all racial groups.
Average costs paid per member of the HAC for hypertension treatment are increasing 6.3% a year. Three important stats:
- Hypertension was 23% more common in men than women.
- The average age among HAC enrollees with hypertension was 53.1.
- The risk of African Americans developing hypertension was 63% more than for other races.
Average costs paid per member of the HAC for back treatment are increasing 3.4% a year. Three important stats:
- Back disorders were 27% more common in women than men.
- The average age among HAC enrollees with back disorders was 43.3.
- Caucasian HAC members had 14% higher back disorder prevalence than other races.
Mental health, substance abuse
Average costs paid per member of the HAC for mental health and substance abuse treatment are increasing 2.7% a year. Three important stats:
- Mental health and substance abuse problems were 39% more common in women than men.
- The average age among HAC enrollees with mental health and substance abuse issues was 32.8.
- Caucasian HAC members had 20% higher mental health and substance abuse issues than other races.
To help workers with these conditions, the report recommends:
- Creating and implementing simple education and targeted wellness programs to address common conditions among your employees.
- Instituting an exercise, stretch or meditation program at the beginning of a work shift to improve safety and decrease injuries. These types of practices are preventative and may decrease the severity of an injury if one occurs.
- Evaluating benefit plan design for opportunities to implement continuum-of-care protocols. For example, employers can make chiropractic care or physical therapy mandatory for back disorders before moving to more aggressive treatments.
- Covering medications for specific common chronic conditions as preventative care. Another option is to promote the use of patient assistance programs for medicines that may be excluded from your plan’s drug formulary.
- Promoting virtual care for specific conditions; for example, mental health support if you have staff in rural areas.
- Working with your health insurer or medical expert(s) to identify opportunities for provider outreach and education to your workers.