By Mark Smith, Director of Population Health
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimates that in 2016 total healthcare spending will increase by 6.5 percent from 2015. Even though this estimate greatly exceeds the overall consumer price index, the rate of growth in healthcare spending has steadily declined from 11.9 percent in 2007. Still, healthcare insurance premiums are a significant portion of employer budgets, and many employers already offer tiered medication programs, chronic disease management programs and wellness incentives as cost-cutting strategies.
Changes in benefit designs, reinsurance limits, new medications and specialty pharmacy coverage make it difficult to determine the benefits of chronic disease management and wellness programs. But, a well-designed and targeted program can have a significant impact. Many employers begin by asking employees to complete a health risk appraisal (HRA), but only motivated and honest employees are likely to benefit from an HRA.
The County Health Rankings website by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute is a great resource to find comparative information and other health-related facts about an employee community. Hamilton County ranks first in Indiana for health behaviors with 13 percent of its adult residents who smoke compared to 23 percent of Indiana residents. Twenty-five percent of Hamilton County residents are considered obese (BMI>30 kg/m2) compared to 31 percent of Indiana residents. And 19 percent of Hamilton County residents are physically inactive compared with 28 percent of Indiana residents. Despite the strong county rankings in many areas, opportunities for improvement exist in alcohol usage in Hamilton County. Thirty-six percent of driving deaths in Hamilton County involved alcohol compared to 25 percent of all Indiana driving deaths. And 18 percent of the county residents report excessive drinking compared to 16 percent of Indiana residents.