Employers believe, is to use disease management techniques to direct employees who are consuming the most health care into programs designed to keep them healthy and productive, while at the same time reducing the occurrence of disability claims.
A recent study based on 60,000 short-term disability claims from 156 companies found that 20 percent of employees were responsible for 91 percent of medical costs. "These results speak volumes about the potential to better manage chronic disease--which accounts for the biggest single share of medical costs--and limit chronic disease-related disability, all by linking disease management with disability plans," says Barton Margoshes, chief medical officer at Cigna Group Insurance in Philadelphia.
Employers can identify where disease management is best applied by looking at disability claims among employees, says Ronald S. Leopold, vice president and national medical director of MetLife Group Disability in Atlanta.
Employers will do so by using their growing body of group disability experience data to help them shape disease management programs, adds Sharon Kaleta, CEO of the San Diego-based Disability Management Employer Coalition, a trade lobby.
At Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas, disease management is integrated into the firm's focus on the life, health and productivity of the employee. "We tend to look at health care as one big circle," says Gary Earl, corporate vice president, benefits, at Caesars.
Its "Life Strides" program, implemented in March 2003, offers 11 wellness centers for employees. The centers also serve as a hub for disease-management services. As a result, health care, disability and workers' comp costs have dropped, he says.
"You cannot truly realize savings unless you havepartnership between your disability and health-benefits teams," says Kathryn Keim, manager of disability and workplace intervention at Qwest Corp. in Denver.
Lockheed Martin, the Bethesda-Md.-based defense contractor, offers diabetes and hypertension disease- management programs.
The company also offersemployees a clinic, which can refer them to disease management programs--before they come down with complications.
"The average age of our employee population is 50, which means greater prevalence of these diseases," says Pamella Thomas, director of wellness and health promotion.
February 1, 2005
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