April 13, 2009
Giving a little can mean getting a lot more back
WHILE IT MAY be a tough sell in the middle of a recession, investment in health care can be beneficial for employers as well as employees.
As we report on page 3, results of the Diabetes Ten City Challenge program to improve diabetes care management show that employers who are prepared to spend more on health care now for certain workers are reaping cost savings more quickly than anticipated.
Ignoring conventional wisdom on health care cost control, the employers found that by reducing financial barriers to care, such as copayments for diabetes patients, the overall health care costs of those patients fell quickly.
For years, employers have seen increased cost-sharing with employees as the key to reducing health care expenses. While this certainly can help save money, the approach isn't perfect. Increasing the cost of accessing care clearly can result in deteriorating health for people with chronic conditions, and as those conditions worsen, costs leap.
What is most encouraging about the Diabetes Ten City Challenge is the speed with which the participating employers saw their costs decline. For a relatively modest investment, employers saw substantial cost reductions within 15 months. That is the type of return on investment that even cash-strapped companies should strive for.