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Employers play important role in preventing and managing diabetes


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The prevalence of diabetes in the workplace is growing and taking a huge financial and human toll.

Raising awareness

With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, we wanted to take this opportunity to remind employers of the role they can play in empowering employees to prevent and manage the disease. But first, let’s take a closer look at this health care issue by the numbers.

Research shows that people with diabetes have medical costs up to three times higher than other Canadians. This year, the economic impact of diabetes in Canada is projected to reach $16.9 billion, up from $6.3 billion in 2000.

Health care epidemic

According to 2019 figures released by Diabetes Canada, someone in Canada is diagnosed with diabetes every three minutes and 11 million are currently living with diabetes or prediabetes.

Our data shows that 1 in 15 covered members now have diabetes. This has major cost implications for benefit plans. Newer, more expensive drugs to treat this chronic disease and an annual increase in the number of claimants has resulted in double-digit growth in per capita spending over the last five years.

Workplace impacts

  • Over half of all new cases of diabetes affect people of working age
  • Employees with diabetes are absent 2 to 10 days more per year than their co-workers
  • Employees with diabetes are three times more likely to have to retire early due to illness than their co-workers

Leading causes

Trends that are fueling this epidemic include:

  • Rising obesity rates: Approximately 60% of Canadians are overweight
  • Increasingly sedentary lifestyles: 50% of Canadians over age 12 are inactive
  • Rapidly aging population: The sharpest increase in diabetes occurs after the age of 40

Left unmanaged, diabetes can lead to downstream complications, many of which can lead to workplace disability claims.

Patient care advancements

Rather than watching this upward trend continue, we have taken real, concrete action to address the problem.

In fact, we have been an industry leader in supporting insulin-dependent Canadians, having included Glucose Monitoring Systems (GMS) as a standard on benefit plans since 2011. As diabetes management technologies have evolved, we have expanded our coverage to make these devices more accessible to plan members. These technologies allow users to keep their glucose levels in check and avoid serious complications like blindness, amputation, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke.

Enhanced Glucose Monitoring System benefit

In July 2020, we introduced an enhanced version of our Glucose Monitoring System (GMS) benefit, so plan members who use insulin can manage their diabetes — and improve their quality of life — with easier access to the latest glucose monitoring tools. This all-inclusive benefit has a combined annual maximum of $4,000, which includes coverage for both Continuous Glucose Monitoring and Flash Monitoring systems, and their components.

Managing Chronic Disease benefit

In addition, our Managing Chronic Disease benefit – a first for Canada – connects members with Certified Diabetes Educators (CDEs) in their communities to help give them the knowledge and confidence to control their condition. This extended health benefit, which is in place for all Fully Insured groups, reimburses members for health coaching, including one-on-one support in using GMS devices effectively.

Medication Adherence app

Medication adherence is also essential in the effective treatment of diabetes. However, the Express Scripts Canada 2020 Drug Trend Report found that many as 70% of Canadian patients are not taking their medications as prescribed by their physicians, with those making claims for diabetes medications being the top nonadherent therapy class at 48%.

This is where the medication management feature of our mobile app, Medavie Mobile, can help. This easy-to-use tool takes a proactive, personalized approach to drug compliance and education. Prescriptions are loaded automatically into the app, allowing members to set daily reminders to take their medications, based on their individual preferences, along with renewal and refill reminders.

Health Risk Assessment Tool

We also offer a Health Risk Assessment tool that can help employers predict the percentage of employees that are likely to have diabetes or are at high risk of developing diabetes, based on an aggregate of biometric measurements, such as blood glucose/blood pressure readings and cholesterol scores. Employers can draw on this data to develop an evidence-based diabetes prevention management plan.

We invite you to contact your Medavie Blue Cross representative to review your current diabetes coverage and consider these options.

Cost-effective strategies

In an earlier two-part Insights blog on diabetes trends and solutions, we suggested cost-effective strategies employers can use to help employees prevent and manage the disease while controlling their benefit costs. These range from creating accommodating workplaces that have healthy food on hand to expanding your employee spending accounts that encourage employees to reduce risk behaviours for disease.

Diabetes in the workplace
Trends & solutions

Find out what employers can do about diabetes prevention and management.

Medavie Blue Cross

For over 75 years, Medavie Blue Cross has been a leading health services partner for individuals, employers...