Chronic disease is the single biggest driver of health plan costs, affecting nearly 3 in 5 Canadians and costing our economy $190 billion annually in lost productivity and income. The 2017 Sanofi Canada Healthcare Survey shows that 57% of plan members report being diagnosed with at least one chronic condition - a figure that increases to 72% among members aged 55 to 64. Is it any wonder that chronic disease is being described as the “silent strain” on employer’s bottom line?
Gap in awareness
Yet according to this same survey, employers estimate that only 32% of their employees have a chronic disease. This gap might help to explain why even basic services to help employees effectively manage their condition are still lacking. This is despite clear evidence of the growing prevalence of chronic disease and emergence of newer, high cost drug therapies. Consider that per capita drug spending for diabetes alone has nearly doubled (48%) over the last five years!
That’s the bad news.
The good news is that there are ways to reduce the incidence of chronic disease, improve health outcomes and optimize drug plan spends. How? By taking a holistic and collaborative approach to chronic disease management that empowers employees to take charge of their treatment plan. And in doing so, they can control their condition - even delay or reverse the onset of disease. Indeed, by seeking specialized services and adopting healthy behaviours, employees can slow the onset of heart disease or stroke by as much as 14 years.
Leading the way
That’s where Medavie Blue Cross is playing a leading role. In fact, Medavie Blue Cross was the first insurance provider in Canada to introduce chronic disease management as an extended health care benefit in group and individual benefit plans.
Our Managing Chronic Disease benefit removes barriers to self-care by giving plan members immediate, expert coaching, counselling and education services from specialized health care professionals. No physician referral is required and services can be accessed in person or by phone.
These personalized, targeted services improve self-management and adherence to treatment and ultimately lead to healthier, more productive employees. This in turn directly impacts the bottom line of businesses by resulting in less absenteeism, fewer disability claims and lower drug spends – which together contribute to the long-term sustainability of benefit plans.
We expanded our benefit in 2017 by adding coverage for heart health and smoking cessation services. They join offerings already available to plan members and their dependents living with diabetes, asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
Smart solutions to chronic disease management will become increasingly important as expensive drugs continue to launch to market and benefit claims continue to rise.
Our studies have consistently demonstrated a positive return on our investments. That’s why we have included the Managing Chronic Disease benefit on all standard insured group and individual plans. We know and appreciate the value of supporting employees on their journey to better health.
About the Author
Paula is a registered nurse and has been with Medavie Blue Cross for 23 years. She is a senior member of our product development team and responsible for benefit management initiatives for private group and individual health programs. Paula has led several workplace health promotion and disease prevention related projects, studies and product development initiatives and evolving existing health & wellness related products and programs. Prior to joining Medavie Blue Cross, she worked in medical surgical units, with experience in both the Canadian and American health care environments.