Chronic Conditions – America’s No. 1 Killer

It is responsible for killing nearly 634,000 Americans a year, and growing.
It is in your workplace, your neighborhood, maybe even your home.
It is silent.
It is expensive.
It is America’s No. 1 killer.
It is heart disease.  And it can be controlled!

For many employers, health care costs are the second largest expense behind salary.  And it is an expense they feel they have little control over.  People will continue to utilize health care and employers can’t really prevent them from it, nor would they want to.  The one area employers can help control is ensuring that employees utilize health care BEFORE they really need it.  Preventive care!

Knowing your risk = lowering your cost.

Heart disease affected 33,126 people in our data analytics book of business, 29 percent of the total population.  And the numbers continue to increase each year.  In fact, this is 8 percent more people than in the prior period.  These are people in your company, your friends and co-workers.  It may even be you tomorrow … do you know your heart disease risk factors?  Your blood pressure and cholesterol levels?

The employers in McGohan Brabender’s data analytics book of business, representing many of our larger clients and nearly 50,000 employees and 110,000 covered lives, spent $57.5 million on heart disease in a 12-month period.  That is an average of $720,000 per employer and nearly 9 percent of total health care spend that is consumed by heart disease alone.  This is an increase of 4 percent from the prior 12-month period.  What would a 4 percent decrease in your health care costs mean to you and your company? I bet you could find a number of ways to grow your business with an extra $720,000.

For your employees, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels is free if caught early enough to manage with diet and exercise. Even managing these conditions with medications is relatively inexpensive.  For employers, the cost of disease prevention and management are small. MB clients spent an average of $42 per cardiovascular drug prescription, or an average of $405 per member per year using cardiovascular drugs – a HUGE savings from an inpatient stay, which averaged nearly $14,000 per patient.

Consider this:

  • Company A has 150 employees – 44 members have heart disease (29% of the population)
  • Forty members manage their disease with medications = $16,200 total annual spend (average $405/member)
  • Four members either did not know or did not manage the disease and had a heart attack = $96,000 total spend (average $24,000/member)
  • What if those four members knew their risk factors and were preventing the disease with low-cost medications? What could you do with an extra $94,380?  Hire at least one more person?  Provide bonuses? Invest in new technologies?

The good news: Heart disease is preventable, but it requires a lifestyle adjustment.  Reduced salt, fewer saturated fats, more exercise.  But the biggest step in preventing heart disease is knowing the risk factors.  As employers, it is important to stress the need for preventive care to your employees and spouses on your health plan.  Annual physicals by a physician should be incentivized for every adult on your plan.  Age/gender preventive screenings should be incentivized as well.  Early prevention and detection not only saves money; it saves lives.  And anyone who thinks they don’t have time for a preventive care visit should consider the time that will be lost fighting a life-threatening disease.

 

By Kelly McCall, Strategic Data Analytics Manager, McGohan Brabender