It is no secret that medical costs in the United States are continuing to escalate. There are mixed opinions on what approach would help alter this cycle, everything from a country-wide insurance plan for all as well as more preventative coverage, to a reduction of unnecessary procedures and medications. All of these approaches have pros and cons, but one thing is for sure: as a society, we need to understand our medical system better. We need to educate medical consumers, medical providers, and insurance carriers with evidence-based information that will help us make better decisions about treatments, with the goal of quicker healing and lower costs.
Employers play a key role in educating consumers on medical insurance and treatments. With 90% of our population employed in some capacity, employers can serve as a conduit to sharing programs that create lower costs, provide alternatives to medication-only treatments, and encourage a healthier lifestyle. For the 1 in 5 adults who have high cholesterol, early detection can make the difference in avoiding or controlling heart disease (and all the higher costs associated with treating the condition). Early detection of diabetes can have a significant impact on the cost of treatment. Given the 20.6 million people dealing with Type 2 diabetes, and 54 million with pre-diabetes, just getting these symptoms in control early can reduce overall medical costs. And perhaps eliminate the 2 out of 3 people with diabetes who will die from heart disease or stroke.
Employers who offer wellness programs are helping reduce our nation’s medical care costs. We encourage employers to think about offering these types of programs:
- Smoking cessation
- Reimbursement for exercise programs
- Annual blood draw analysis to detect cholesterol, blood pressure, and diabetes conditions
- Walking programs
- Weight management programs
Many of these are low or no cost to employers. The investment also pays huge dividends to both individuals and the business in the long run.