September 23, 2021

Tackling the Cost of Chronic Disease in the Workforce

By David Zanze, Executive Vice President of Western Growers Assurance Trust

How much are chronic conditions costing employers in lost productivity and medical expenses each year? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s an estimated $36.4 billion. For employers looking to become proactive in dealing with the impact of chronic diseases on their workforce, there is light at the end of the tunnel. More employers are choosing to adopt care management programs designed to not only improve the health of their unique employee populations, but also save on medical costs.

The Challenge for Ag Employers

A California Agricultural Workers Health Survey measured several major chronic disease risk factors among farmworkers. The report found that farmworkers are at elevated risk for diabetes as well as heart disease, and that a significant number of diagnoses among workers remain underreported. Additionally, a higher percentage of male farmworkers had high cholesterol when compared with the rest of the U.S. general population. Diagnoses for high blood pressure among male and female agricultural workers between the ages of 22 and 40 also skewed higher when compared with the rest of the population. The data also found that 81 percent of male and 76 percent of female ag workers were overweight or obese.

COVID-19 certainly hasn’t improved the situation for employers. In fact, diabetes cases surged 182 percent during the first year of the pandemic compared to the previous year. According to recent numbers reported by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diabetes alone has cost employers $90 billion.

Steps to Improve Health

Employers can take steps to ensure their affected employees receive the support they need to help manage their conditions more effectively, prevent related risks and complications, and reduce medical costs. Western Growers Assurance Trust (WGAT) partners with Pinnacle Health Management (PHM) to offer a health management program at no cost to employees diagnosed with a chronic care condition. The program, which is included with every WGAT health plan, provides support for those diagnosed with:

•   Asthma

•   Depression

•   Diabetes

•   Hypertension (high blood pressure)

•   Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol)

•   Weight Management

•   Mom-to-Be

•   Nicotine Cessation

Our team of medical professionals help control and prevent various disease stages and helps participants stay compliant with their treatment plans. We also can provide data analytics that enables us to make customized recommendations for employers to ensure a healthy and productive workforce.

Patient adherence is key to having better health outcomes for employees with chronic conditions. If you don’t have a WGAT plan, which includes a health management program with every plan, contact us to see how we can help you better manage your health care costs at (800) 333-4942.