November 14 is World Diabetes Day (WDD), the world’s largest diabetes awareness campaign. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of death, particularly in low-and-middle income countries. According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
How can employers better support their employees with diabetes?
Large employers have increasingly turned to virtual solutions to assist with disease management. The Business Group’s 2020 Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey found that 44% of employers introduced virtual offerings for diabetes management in 2019 with an additional 31% reporting that they plan to introduce solutions between 2020 and 2022.
Diabetes is a chronic condition requiring active daily management. Members living with this condition can benefit from frequent guidance and counseling to remain adherent to their medications and preventive screenings, including vision care. Active engagement of these members in the disease management programs and support by nurses or certified diabetes educators is critical to ensure adherence to screening and treatment protocols and effective management of comorbidities. Consider implementing program engagement incentives for your employees and monitor how effective your vendors are in engaging members living with chronic conditions as well as the impact of those programs on key health metrics for that population, such as the HbA1c levels
While diabetes management is crucial for those already diagnosed, prevention also plays a key role in lessening the burden of this disease. Lifestyle modifications and measures have been shown to be effective in preventing or delaying the onset of type 2 diabetes. Engaging employees in campaigns promoting physical activity, tobacco cessation, and healthy diets can serve as preventive measures.
We can’t discuss diabetes without mentioning insulin, particularly due to its increasing cost. One out of three adults living with diabetes require daily insulin dosages. Recent guidance from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) expanded the scope of preventive services that can be offered pre- deductible under the HSA account rules and explicitly enables plan sponsors to deem insulin as preventive. Employers should consider taking this guidance into account in discussions with their health plan and PBM about preventive drug lists to provide their employees with affordable access to insulin.
Supporting employees with diabetes has proven to be an ongoing challenge for large employers, from the pre-diabetes stage to the various co-morbidities diabetes patients tend to also present with. Implementing a coordinated approach to diabetes prevention and management can both slow disease progression and result in better health outcomes for employees and their families.