|[January 10, 2013]
Study: UnitedHealthcare's Diabetes Health Plan Can Lead to Improved Health, More Effective Disease Management, Better Cost Control
MINNEAPOLIS --(Business Wire)--
A two-year study from UnitedHealthcare, a UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH)
company, offers promise that the Diabetes Health Plan (DHP) can help
people with diabetes more effectively manage their condition and reduce
their health risks, while also reducing related health care costs.
The study followed 620 people with diabetes for two years, examining
their compliance with six key diabetes treatment and testing
requirements, including regular primary care visits and screening tests
for blood sugar, cholesterol, cancer, kidney function and eye disease.
The study found that:
incentives, including offering some diabetes supplies and
diabetes-related prescription drugs at no charge, increase adherence
to treatment guidelines, improving people's health;
participants on average achieved compliance with 75 percent of the key
requirements vs. 61 percent for people with diabetes not enrolled in
the compliance rate of plan participants increased 6 percent over two
Moreover, 21 percent of DHP study participants also saw a reduction in
their health risk scores, which are used to measure expected health care
costs for an individual or a population. In fact, health care costs grew
at a 4 percent slower pace for DHP participants than for employees with
diabetes not participating in the DHP. The two-year analysis included
all medical costs for preventive care and treatment, along with payment
of financial incentives to plan participants.
"The results are in on the UnitedHealthcare Diabetes Health Plan:
improved health for employees and reduced costs for employers," said Sam
Ho, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical officer,
Tania Snellenberger, who works for the Palm Beach County School District
and is enrolled in the Diabetes Health Plan through the School District
Wellness Program, said: "A year ago, my doctor told me if I didn't lose
weight, I would end up developing diabetes. As a New Year's resolution I
decided it was time to do something both for myself and for my family.
The Diabetes Health Plan helped me develop a new lifestyle. I have lost
40 pounds and have also improved my health significantly. On my last
visit back eight months into the program, all my numbers are normal and
I am no longer at risk for diabetes."
The school district has more than 21,000 employees and insures 36,600
people, about 10 percent of whom have diabetes or prediabetes and are
enrolled in the DHP.
This first study of the program examined changes in behavior, health
risk levels and medical costs of DHP participants compared with people
with diabetes not enrolled in the plan. The two-year study compared the
620 study participants with 9,175 people with diabetes selected from 106
employers who did not offer the DHP to their employees but shared
similar characteristics with the DHP customers, including size
industry, health benefit level and salary levels.
As membership in the plan grows, UnitedHealthcare will continue to
evaluate plan design and determine the most effective tools to help
people manage their condition.
How it Works: The Diabetes Health Plan in Practice
Diabetes Health Plan rewards people with diabetes or prediabetes who
routinely follow independent, medically proven steps to help manage
their condition - such as regular blood sugar checks, routine exams and
preventive screenings - and use wellness coaching. The DHP offers people
who follow preventive steps the prospect of reducing annual
out-of-pocket costs. Benefits include some diabetes supplies and
diabetes-related prescription drugs at no charge, as well as no
co-payments for related doctor visits, at an estimated savings of up to
$500 a year.
UnitedHealthcare launched the DHP in 2009 with Hewlett-Packard (News - Alert) and
Affinia Group, and conducted the two-year study comparing plan
participants with diabetes and a control group of people with diabetes
not enrolled in the program. The DHP also is available to people with
prediabetes, the precursor to type 2 diabetes; however, people with
prediabetes were not involved in the study.
Since its launch, 30 employers and organizations, including The City of
New Orleans and the American Postal Workers Union Health Plan, have
signed up for the DHP, with about 15,000 people enrolled who have
diabetes or prediabetes. Ten new customers are adding the DHP in 2013,
covering about 70,000 new people - a testament to the growing concern
nationwide about the impact of diabetes on the health of individuals and
communities, and escalating health care costs.
The Diabetes Health Plan is available to self-insured commercial health
plan customers and their family members with diabetes or prediabetes.*
Employers have the option of offering the program as a standalone health
plan or as an enhancement to an existing traditional plan.
Mitigating Rising Costs
have traditionally focused on complications for people already known to
have diabetes," said Dr. Ho. "The goal of the Diabetes Health Plan is to
slow the progression of the disease for people with diabetes, and in as
many cases as possible, to reverse the condition for people at the
prediabetes stage. Progress on both fronts could save U.S. employers -
and the overall health system - billions of dollars, while improving
quality of life for their employees."
There are nearly 27 million American adults with diabetes, and another
79 million Americans - more than a third of the adult population - have
prediabetes. Diabetes cost the country an estimated $194 billion in
2010. If current trends continue, more than half of all Americans will
have diabetes or prediabetes by 2020, according to an analysis from the
UnitedHealth Center for Health Reform & Modernization, and diabetes will
account for an estimated 10 percent of total health care spending, or
almost $500 billion a year. A decades-long epidemic of obesity in the
United States is a major reason why diabetes rates continue to climb.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that more
than 80 percent of people with diabetes do not follow their physicians'
advice on how to manage their disease. Experts say out-of-pocket costs
for recommended supplies, medicines and physician-visit co-pays are key
reasons why many people with diabetes do not follow treatment
guidelines. Another is lack of knowledge about diabetes and prediabetes.
UnitedHealthcare's Diabetes Health Plan provides many incentives to help
people better manage their health by lowering financial barriers and
providing wellness coaching, training and information, a real-time
compliance monitoring system and personal health records.
UnitedHealthcare launched the DHP to help encourage people to take
increased preventive steps to improve health outcomes and help lower
employers' health care costs. The estimated annual cost for treating a
"healthy" employee (defined as an individual with no chronic disease) is
$4,400, according to UnitedHealthcare data. For people with diabetes
without the complications that often afflict people with the disease,
the annual cost is $11,700, a figure that rises to $20,700 for people
with diagnosed diabetes and complications, such as heart disease or
"We implemented the Diabetes Health Plan in 2010 because diabetes was 20
percent of our health claims costs," said Dianne Howard, director of
Risk and Benefits Management for the School District of Palm Beach
County. "In one year, we've experienced a 9 percent reduction in our
total net costs, saving about $2.9 million. We've also had a continuous
increase in enrolled employees meeting their compliance goals and
* Self-insured plans generally are used only by larger employers,
with claims administered by an insurance company. The employer itself is
responsible for funding covered health care costs for participating
employees and family members.
is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by
simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and
wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care
providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit
programs for individuals, employers and Medicare and Medicaid
beneficiaries, and contracts directly with more than 650,000 physicians
and care professionals and 5,000 hospitals nationwide. UnitedHealthcare
serves more than 38 million people and is one of the businesses of
UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and
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