September 8, 2020

Tackling Diabetes in the Workforce

Diabetes is one of the fastest-growing chronic diseases in the U.S. An estimated 34.2 million Americans have diabetes—that’s nearly 10.5% of the U.S. population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Of that 34.2 million, more than 7 million Americans remain undiagnosed. What do these numbers mean for employers and their workforce? It means health care costs are on the rise. It also means that the increasing costs and rising diagnoses can be reduced if more people were educated about diabetes and its risk factors.

Taking a look at the most recently reported numbers, the total cost of diagnosed diabetes has surged to $327 billion in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Direct medical costs comprise an estimated $237 billion, which include:

•   hospital inpatient care

•   prescription medications to treat diabetes complications

•   anti-diabetic agents and diabetes supplies

•   physician office visits

The remaining $90 billion is what diabetes cost employers in reduced productivity among their employees. The breakdown in indirect costs, according to the ADA, are as follows:

•   increased absenteeism

•   reduced productivity while at work

•   reduced productivity for those not in the labor force

•   inability to work because of disease-related disability

•   lost productive capacity due to early mortality

Furthermore, what is equally concerning is that more than 88 million adults in the U.S. are classified as pre-diabetic. Pre-diabetes is a condition where blood sugars are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes. The CDC has determined that more than one-third of the U.S. population are pre-diabetic, and an estimated 85% don’t know they have it.

Health Management

Health management programs can significantly help in reducing costs for employers and employees, and significantly help improve the health and wellbeing of those living with chronic conditions, especially diabetes. At Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT), we partner with Pinnacle Health Management (PHM) to offer curriculum-based care management programs at no cost to employees with chronic care conditions. These conditions include asthma, hypertension, high cholesterol, weight management, depression and diabetes. Our care management programs are included with every WGAT health plan purchased.

Most recently, we launched our Enhanced Diabetes Program to provide additional self-management support for our members. The program uses advanced mobile technology to monitor glucose readings. WGAT recognizes the importance of technology in health care, which has allowed for reduced health care costs, improved quality of care for patients, and increased accessibility of health care for more individuals.

Through our Enhanced Diabetes Program, participants can track their blood glucose readings through a Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose monitor. The device automatically connects with our “PHM Your Numbers” mobile application and stores the participant’s blood glucose readings. The mobile application syncs with a portal and shares data with the participant’s nurse care manager. If they choose, participants of the program can also use the technology to share their numbers with their primary care physicians.

One of the more common challenges with diabetes is the ability to effectively monitor, store and track blood sugar levels. The technology used in our Enhanced Diabetes Program is convenient because it allows diabetics to effectively monitor their blood sugar regularly and store their blood sugar readings in an easy-to-use app. It’s also helpful in that health care providers can have access to the readings to help the patient decrease potential risks. This advanced technology helps our members manage their condition more effectively, ultimately reducing medical costs and improving their quality of life.

Our Enhanced Diabetes Program includes a Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose monitor and diabetic supplies (lancets, lance pen, and test strips), all of which are free of charge to the member. We’ll also send refills every 90 days to the member’s home address. The “PHM Your Numbers” app is available in both English and Spanish.

With National Diabetes Month approaching in November, it’s important for all of us to do our part in raising awareness about diabetes and promoting healthy living. If you don’t have the WGAT plan, which includes a care management program with every plan, contact Western Growers Insurance Services for more information and to see how it can help you better manage your health care costs. You can reach a sales team member at (800) 333-4WGA.