Is Your Wellness Program Helping Employees with Chronic Conditions?

According to the CDC, “Six in ten adults have a chronic disease, and four in ten adults have two or more.”1 Treatment of chronic disease costs an estimated $3.3 trillion per year, so 90% of America’s total medical-related expenditures.  The following list highlights some of the more common and expensive conditions:

  • Diabetes

Over 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, which costs America’s healthcare system and employers over $237 billion per year. What may be even more concerning is that an estimated 84 million more are considered pre-diabetic.2

  • Obesity

    • Approximately 1 in 3 adults and 1 in 5 children are affected by obesity, which leads to $147 billion in annual costs.3
  • High Blood Pressure

    • Due to medical services, medications, and workplace absenteeism, high blood pressure costs the United States $48.6 billion annually.4
  • High Cholesterol

    • High cholesterol is an early indicator of heart disease and stroke, which also kills more than 859,00 Americans every year (or approximately one-third of all deaths). This leads to the total cost of $199 billion per year and an additional $131 billion in lost worker productivity.5
  • Tobacco Use

    • Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death and disease, and also costs $170 billion in medical-related treatments annually.5

Therefore, reason suggests that addressing how to manage and minimize the effects of chronic diseases would go a long way in solving one of America’s greatest financial problems. Part of the solution may lie in prevention and education, which can often be found right where we punch in for work every day.

Wellness Programs and Chronic Condition Management

Employer-sponsored wellness programs that include chronic condition management have shown great promise. A recent RAND study of workplace wellness programs reveals that 87% of the $30 per-member, per-month (PMPM) savings firms have experienced can be traced to disease management (when it is available).6  Unfortunately, not everyone has access, as only 56% of current wellness offerings include disease-management programs.7

Incentivizing employees to regularly participate is also critical to the long-term success of any wellness initiative.  Traditional approaches used to entice workers with discounted gym memberships or other small tokens to increase engagement; however, these have often proven unsuccessful over time. HealthyCapital offers another angle by using actuarial data to illustrate how individuals can lengthen their lives and save thousands of dollars every single year through small and simple behavior changes (like walking twice a week or reducing alcohol intake). Furthermore, the approach extrapolates how the investing the savings from condition management can yield hundreds of thousand in additional funds for the average American middle-aged worker by retirement (age 65).

Case Study

For example, HealthyCapital can project how a 40-year old woman with type II diabetes who gardens twice a week (a hobby she enjoys), improves her diet, and takes medication as prescribed (sometimes she forgets) could add 9 years to her lifespan and save an average of $3,730 annually – a value of $176,000 by age 65. There is also an advantage to employers, who stand to save approximately three times what healthy workers do (in this woman’s case, over $10,000 per year) in reduced sick time and increased productivity.  That’s for one employee. So imagine how much a company with 1,000 employees can save if even 10% of its workforce participates! 8

As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This certainly rings true when data reveals that basic lifestyle changes not only create a happier, healthier, and more financially stable workforce, but also lower medical-related expenditures for American businesses – and its distended healthcare system.

  2. American Diabetes Association. Economic Costs of Diabetes in the U.S. in 2017. Diabetes Care2018; 41(5):917-928. PubMed abstract External.
  3. Finkelstein EA, Trogdon JG, Cohen JW, Dietz W. Annual medical spending attributable to obesity: payer- and service-specific estimates. Health Aff2009;28(5):w822-31. PubMed abstract External.
  5. The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon GeneralCdc-pdf[PDF – 36 MB]External. Atlanta, GA: US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2014. Accessed June 29, 2018.
  8. Data provided by HealthyCapital