The pandemic has created trends in employee health that are impacting employer healthcare costs. What can employers do to proactively reduce their healthcare costs?
A recent large employer survey covering more than 18 million lives by Business Group on Health (BGH) 1 found that cancer was a top driver of employer healthcare costs, along with cardiovascular disease and musculoskeletal conditions as in the prior year. However, an increase in late-stage cancers was observed by 13% of employers, while 44% anticipate an increase in the future. Additionally, long-term mental health issues were acknowledged as the leading impact of the pandemic, with 43% of employers already seeing this trend. Additionally, almost all employers (99%) said they were concerned with the prescription drug trend, with it accounting for a median of 21% of their healthcare costs in 2021.
The cost to employers with these trends is concerning after having a median 8.2% increase in premiums in 2021. 1 In addition to plan design changes and optimization, employers need to consider preventative measures to help employees avoid these illnesses, while providing long-term cost relief through nutrition and lifestyle changes.
“Only 5–10% of all cancer cases can be attributed to genetic defects, whereas the remaining 90–95% have their roots in the environment and lifestyle. The lifestyle factors include cigarette smoking, diet (fried foods, red meat), alcohol, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, infections, stress, obesity, and physical inactivity. The evidence indicates that of all cancer-related deaths, almost 25–30% are due to tobacco, as many as 30–35% are linked to diet, about 15–20% are due to infections, and the remaining percentage are due to other factors like radiation, stress, physical activity, environmental pollutants, etc.” 2
Did you know that many of the diet and lifestyle changes that help prevent cancer risk are also the same factors that impact cardiovascular disease, mental health, and prescription costs? 3–6 In addition to benefit plan design changes, employers can take a proactive approach towards their employees well-being by offering their employees either a group health and nutrition program, or one focused on personalized nutrition for individual employees. VERVE offers both a group program focused on diet and lifestyle changes, as well as individual-based programs offering one-on-one personalized nutrition with a clinical nutritionist that focuses on diet and lifestyle enhancements (exercise, stress, sleep, environmental factors, community) and virtual personal training.
As an example, if you engage one employee with lifestyle improvements who is currently on one or more prescription drugs for cardiovascular disease, and they make lifestyle and dietary changes, that may help reduce their number of future office visits, procedures and prescription drug costs, while importantly improving their quality of life, vitality, and office productivity!
Contact Sandy Russell, MS, CDN, CNS candidate at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website for more information www.vervepros.com/services/#health
1. Cancer Now Top Driver of Employer Health Care Costs, Says Business Group’s 2023 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey | Business Group on Health. https://www.businessgrouphealth.org/en/Who We Are/Newsroom/Press Releases/2023 LEHCSPDS
2. Anand P, Kunnumakara AB, Sundaram C, et al. Cancer is a Preventable Disease that Requires Major Lifestyle Changes. Pharm Res. 2008;25(9):2097-2116. doi:10.1007/s11095-008-9661-9
3. Clay R. The link between food and mental health. https://www.apa.org. Published September 2017. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2017/09/food-mental-health
4. Heart disease and diet. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Published July 30, 2020. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002436.htm
5. Bhupathiraju SN, Tucker KL. Coronary heart disease prevention: Nutrients, foods, and dietary patterns. Clin Chim Acta. 2011;412(17-18):1493-1514. doi:10.1016/j.cca.2011.04.038
6. Esselstyn CB. We Can Prevent and Even Reverse Coronary Artery Heart Disease. MedGenMed. 2007;9(3):46. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2100124/