In the U.S., 37.3 million people are living with diabetes, and another 96 million people are living with pre-diabetes.1 Among people living with type 2 diabetes (T2D), 89% will experience at least two other chronic conditions.2
Not only is the number of people affected high, so is the cost: The American Diabetes Association (ADA) reported in 2017 that people with diabetes accounted for 25% of healthcare costs in the U.S. The report notes that metabolic health problems, like diabetes, are among the costliest and riskiest threats to population health in the U.S., with the cost of diagnosed diabetes reaching $327 billion in 2017.3
Given the human and economic impact of diabetes, it's clear why many organizations, like yours, are looking for ways to both support their employees living with diabetes and also make managing diabetes affordable. How can employers manage these costs while providing physical, emotional and financial wellbeing to their employees?
The Reality of High-Cost Diabetes Medications
Diabetic patients are often faced with high out-of-pocket costs for their medications, and with that cost comes significant risk. According to a recent study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, 20% of people with diabetes in the U.S. skipped, delayed or cut back on dosage to save money. That statistic includes people of all income levels: "10.8% of higher-income persons reporting rationing, 19.8% of middle-income and 14.6% of low-income individuals."4
Furthermore, according to the ADA, "31% of people with diabetes said they did not self-monitor glucose levels because the cost of strips [was] too expensive and 47% reported the testing was not convenient."3
Employers need to understand their diabetes-related claims and gaps in care to provide the right solutions for their people who live with diabetes. The good news is that when employers have this understanding, it supports a people-centered strategy for diabetes management, thus creating a win-win for employers and employees. The strategy not only includes solutions such as providing affordable coverage for testing supplies and medications, but also creating an environment where employees feel safe to participate in their employer-sponsored diabetes management solutions. Fortunately, for employers seeking ways to help their employees with diabetes, the number of innovative solutions available is on the rise.
A New Way to Diabetes Wellbeing
From assisting with affordability to helping those with T2D eliminate the need for medications altogether, new options exist. By helping patients return blood sugar to normal levels and safely eliminating all diabetes-specific drugs — including insulin — programs like Virta's* allow employers to offer a new way to affordably support the wellbeing of their employees living with diabetes.
Innovative solutions like biometric monitoring, health coaching, digital guided education protocol, individualized nutrition and provider care are delivered virtually through Virta's proprietary technology. Their studies have shown that they can achieve distinct clinical objectives. Through options like the Gallagher Pharmacy Alliance, pooled performance could offer an average of 1% reduction in A1C (a blood sugar indicator), 5% weight loss and nearly 40% cost reduction in diabetes prescriptions within the first year.
The number of people being diagnosed with T2D is growing, and there's a reason so much funding is being dedicated to reducing barriers and increasing compliance. Soon we'll see even more advancements through technology that will provide solutions to empower employees, including technological advancements5 such as:
- Alternatives to glucose measurements including non-invasive devices that use sweat, fingerprints and optical scanning
- Genetic testing for personalized prevention and treatment
- Automated insulin delivery devices as alternatives to syringes and pens
- Software and apps that offer on-demand, personalized treatment options
- Expansion of virtual care, ophthalmology care and podiatry care solutions
How Employers Can Take Action to Support Employees With Diabetes
As the diagnoses and solutions surrounding diabetes continue to grow, companies have an opportunity to support employers with effective solutions that make managing diabetes more cost efficient and impactful for the employer and employee. While large employers can support their population with more available resources beyond medications, small employers, who typically don’t have access, can now get these great benefits at an affordable price through pharmacy coalitions like Gallagher Pharmacy Alliance.
Contact your Gallagher consultant today to learn more about helping your organization support employees with diabetes.
*Thanks to Virta for contributing information to this article.