Employers Hope for Cost Savings with Diabetic Care Program

December 24, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - In an effort to control diabetes-related healthcare costs, five companies will roll out a voluntary diabetes program in 2003.

Sponsored by a start-up grant from drug maker Aventis and headed up by the American Pharmaceutical Association’s (APhA) research and education arm, the five yet undisclosed participants, said to include companies in the Fortune 500, will use specially trained pharmacists to educate at least 500 diabetic employees about proper diabetes care.  The program is modeled after a similar plan implemented in Asheville, North Carolina, according to a Reuters Health story.

APhA is currently putting together materials and tools for the five self-insured employers to use in their programs. The program will start for two employers in January, with the others following in March and April.  Employers participating in the “patient self-management” program are looking for reduced diabetes-related costs and an overall improved health of their workforce.

The Asheville Plan

Asheville, North Carolina launched a similar program approximately six years ago, in an attempt to lower medical costs associated with its diabetic city workers.   Specially trained pharmacists were called in to “coach” employees about the necessary diet, exercise and medications for people living with diabetes.

Additionally, the pharmacists would provide regular monthly health examinations including foot exams, glucose-monitor readings and consultations with doctors.

Incentives to participate in the voluntary program included, waiving co-payments on diabetic specific items, such as insulin and glucose strips, and providing free glucose monitoring devices, as long as patients maintained monthly appointments with the pharmacists.  

The results of the study, currently involving 98 patients, showed lowered healthcare costs, from an average of $6,127 per diabetic patient per year in February 1997 to an average annual cost of $4,651 in February 2002, reduced blood sugar levels and a decline in the number of sick days taken.