Winter 2021 Insight Employer Newsletter
Employers can play an important role in promoting diabetes prevention
By Deirdre Wheat, M.D., Medical Director, Quality, Disease & Case Management, Independent Health
Diabetes continues to be one of the country’s fastest growing and most expensive chronic diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that more than 34 million adults are currently living with type 2 diabetes in the United States, while approximately 88 million have prediabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes cost employers and insurers billions of dollars each year in medical expenses and lost productivity:
- Care for people with diagnosed diabetes accounts for 1 in 4 healthcare dollars in the U.S.
- On average, people with diagnosed diabetes have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.
- In 2017, the total cost of care for people with diagnosed diabetes was $327 billion, up 33% over a 5-year period. This included $237 billion in direct medical costs and $90 billion in costs related to reduced productivity and absenteeism.
From a local standpoint, a newly published report by the Population Health Collaborative, titled “The Economic Impact Of Poor Health On Our WNY Community,” finds that almost 11% of Buffalo-Niagara residents have diabetes. Of these, 10% have a hospitalization in a year. Overall, Buffalo-Niagara’s incremental medical costs from diabetes is $200.4 million per year, while the annual costs for productivity losses total nearly $158 million.
People who develop type 2 diabetes usually have prediabetes first. Data from the CDC shows that, without intervention, around 15-30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years. Therefore, when doctors, patients, insurers and employers work together, it is possible to prevent diabetes by finding ways to decrease incidence and prevalence of prediabetes.
What is prediabetes?
Prediabetes is a warning sign that your blood glucose (blood sugar) is higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. If you have prediabetes, it increases your risk for not only diabetes, but also heart disease and stroke. There are often no signs or symptoms associated with this condition. In fact, the CDC estimates that over 80% of those with prediabetes do not even know they have it.
Employers can do their part to help raise prediabetes awareness by encouraging their employees to take a quick Prediabetes Risk Test. According to the CDC, people may be at higher risk for prediabetes if they are overweight and/or over the age of 45. Other risk factors include:
- Lack of physical activity
- A history of diabetes during pregnancy
- A parent or sibling with diabetes
Employees who score a 5 or higher on their Prediabetes Risk Test are advised to speak with their doctor about their results. A blood sugar test may be required to determine if they have prediabetes.
How to lower prediabetes risk
Since diabetes is a significant workforce issue, there is an opportunity for employers to create a culture that promotes healthy habits. It’s important to keep in mind that people can lower their risk for prediabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke, by adopting a healthy lifestyle. This includes:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Being physically active
- Making healthy food choices
- Managing chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure
Employers can also help their employees prevent diabetes by choosing a health insurance plan that offers helpful tools and resources, such as a CDC-recognized lifestyle change program. A good example is the National Diabetes Prevention Program, which is a nationwide effort to reverse the trend of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes in U.S. Research shows that people with prediabetes who take part in a structured lifestyle change program can cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 58%.
Independent Health now offers Diabetes Prevention Program
New for 2021, Independent Health is offering Brook+, a CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program that is included as a covered benefit for our commercial plans. Members who have prediabetes and meet certain eligibility requirements will be able to participate in this year-long program from the comfort of their own home. Brook+ has a $0 member cost share for all of our insured plans, including High Deductible Health Plans such as iDirect and Choice Plus.
Using fully digital delivery and on-demand content, Brook+ helps participants make real lifestyle changes, such as eating healthier, incorporating physical activity into their daily lives, and improving problem-solving and coping skills. A CDC-trained lifestyle coach provides one-on-one guidance and participants have the support of a small group of peers. View an informational flyer about Brook+.
We want to make it easier for your employees to take charge of their health
At Independent Health, we understand that a healthy workforce is a happy, productive workforce. That’s why we have a long history of working with employers to create healthier workplaces throughout Western New York.
From employee worksite wellness and preventive health education to comprehensive chronic disease and case management, our multidisciplinary team of health care professionals and corporate wellness specialists are here to provide expertise and knowledge to your employees.
In addition, we offer many unique benefits and health engagement tools that make it fun, easy and rewarding to get healthy and stay healthy. Here are just a few examples:
- Health Extras℠ Benefit
Our Health Extras benefit* provides our members with a $250 prepaid Visa® debit card to use toward a variety of health and wellness activities and services for themselves or their dependents. If your plan includes the Health Extras benefit, your employees can use their Health Extras debit card to pay for a gym/fitness center membership, a Weight Watchers membership, vitamins and herbs, prepared meals, fitness equipment, massages and more. Participating partners in our Health Extras program are being added all the time. In fact, over the past six months, we’ve welcomed Bert’s Bikes & Fitness, Fitbit, Peloton, Beachbody On Demand and Les Mills On Demand. View a complete list of Health Extras participating vendors.
- Nutrition Benefit
Our Nutrition Benefit** is offered exclusively through Independent Health and gives our members the opportunity to get money-back rewards on fruits and vegetables when purchased at TOPS Friendly Markets. Members receive $1 back in rewards for every $2 they spend on fresh produce at Tops Friendly Markets. The rewards dollars are paid out quarterly in the form of an in-store rewards card that can be used on future in-store grocery purchases, excluding tobacco products. Members can earn up to $1,000 on their produce purchases each year on a family plan and up to $500 on a single plan, with the benefit rewards tracked through the Tops BonusPlus® program. Since introducing the Nutrition Benefit in 2014, Independent Health has paid nearly $5 million to more than 65,000 members who purchased their produce at Tops.
All Independent Health commercial plan members have access to FitWorks®, our free online wellness tool that is designed to get people engaged in healthy activities. FitWorks provide access to resources that can help your employees stay motivated in tracking and achieving their health and fitness goals, while also building a better relationship with their doctor. Your employees can access FitWorks by simply logging into their online member account.
With the Brook personal health companion mobile app, your employees get tools and personalized support to manage their health and well-being and create new routines that help them stay healthy. Exclusively available for free to Independent Health members, Brook’s health experts can help your employees with:
- Simple, healthy home cooking
- Supporting healthy immune function
- Staying active at home
- Stress management
- Concerns about sleep
- Managing diabetes and/or hypertension and logging their blood sugar and/or blood pressure readings so that they can keep their doctors informed, especially in-between visits
Formerly known as Zipongo, this free web-based platform for Independent Health members can provide your employees with ways to eat healthier, including features to connect to online grocery shopping and delivery, as well as prepared and ready-to-make meal kits. Foodsmart takes the guesswork out of healthy eating with personalized meal recommendations based on a user’s biometrics and food preferences. Your employees can log in to their Independent Health member account and click the Foodsmart logo to get started.
As always, if you have any questions about your plan benefits or would like to learn about all the ways we can help your employees take charge of their health, contact your account manager.
*Benefits vary by plan. Health Extras is available as a point-of-enrollment benefit with the majority of our small group plans. Available with FlexFit and FlexFit Select large group plans. Offered as a rider for all other large group plans.
**Benefits vary by plan. The Nutrition Benefit is available as a point-of-enrollment benefit with the majority of our small group plans. Offered as a rider for large group plans.
Why your employees should register for an online member account
In order to ensure that your employees get the most out of their health care coverage, we ask that you encourage them to create an online member account.
Having their own private and secure account allows your employees to have all of their plan information in one convenient place. In addition, they have 24/7 access to a variety of online tools and resources that can help them take charge of their overall health and well-being.
Among the things your employees can do through their online account – anytime from anywhere – include:
- Check their medical and pharmacy benefits
- Review all of their claims
- Change their primary care physician
- Update their contact information
- Check their Health ExtrasSM and nutrition benefit balance updates*
- Track their deductible if they’re enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan
- Manage their Health Savings Account (HSA) through HealthEquity*
- Make their premium payments electronically (if applicable)
- Receive personal health recommendations for each member of your family, including annual checkups, flu shots, preventive screenings and more
- Find ways to save money by looking up and comparing costs for their prescription medications
- Reach their fitness goals with our FitWorks® online wellness tool
- Access Foodsmart (formerly known as Zipongo) to eat healthy at home, at work and on-the-go
Plus, when creating an online account, your employees provide us with an email address, giving us a direct way to communicate with them. When we reach your employees in a more personal, member-specific manner, it enhances our ability to effectively help them manage their own health. And that means a healthier, more productive workforce you can depend on.
*Not included with all plans. Check your summary of benefits to see if your plan includes these options and benefits.
Our online Health Hub to host free virtual classes for all members
During these challenging and uncertain times, Independent Health wants to make sure your employees are taking charge of their health and well-being while staying safe at home. That’s why we have started to offer free virtual health and wellness-related classes to all of our commercial plan members.
Here are just some of the upcoming classes that will be available via Zoom through our online Health Hub:
- “Active Sitting” – Thursday, February 11 from noon to 1 p.m.
Presented by Melissa Bulas-Mercuri, PT, DPT, of Buffalo Rehab Group. Participants will learn strategies to improve their posture, including stretches to reduce the strain to your neck and lower back.
- “How a Sedentary Lifestyle Affects Your Age” – Tuesday, February 17 from 10-11 a.m.
Presented by Michelle Carbery, Senior Corporate Wellness Specialist, Independent Health. You may have heard that sitting for long periods of time can increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, obesity and depression. But did you know being sedentary can increase your biological age by eight years? Participants will learn what happens to their bodies when they sit more than they move, along with simple ways to add more movement.
- “Muscle, Mobility & Mind” – Thursday, February 25 from noon to 12:30 p.m.
Led by Kris Gallimore, Corporate Wellness Specialist, Independent Health. Participants will build lean muscle while increasing their heart rate during this fun and engaging workout. At the end, they will have a few minutes of reflection/meditation that will leave them feeling energized, positive and refreshed. Participants should come prepared with two weights or weighted items like water bottles or soup cans.
- “Inflammation 101” – Tuesday, March 2 from 10-11 a.m.
Presented by Lauren Dlugosz, Wellness Program Manager, Independent Health. Participants will learn what inflammation is and how it can impact their health, including signs of inflammation, common causes and what problems inflammation can trigger.
- “COVID-19 & Financial Worries” – Thursday, March 4 from noon to 1 p.m.
Presented by Nicolle Overkamp author and founder of Wilcox Financial Group. Participants will learn how to knock out debt fast, build savings and gain a better awareness of financial health during these challenging times.
- “Stress Management and Mindfulness” – Tuesday, March 9 from 11 a.m. to noon
Presented by Patrick Greene, Horizon Health Services. Participants will learn the meaning of mindfulness, the mental and physical benefits of practicing mindfulness, and how mindfulness can relieve stress, increase productivity and improve overall health and well-being.
- “The Aging Neck” – Thursday, March 18 from noon to 1 p.m.
Presented by Garnet Loveday, PT, DPT, of Buffalo Rehab Group. Participants will learn how to improve their neck health and slow the aging process using exercise.
Registration is not required for any of the classes. Learn more and view a complete class schedule.
We also offer “Work Out At Home” videos!
As a way to help your employees get their hearts pumping and body moving, Independent Health’s Corporate Wellness Team has produced a series of instructional videos to show how exercising at home can be both easy and fun to do. Whether your employees are looking to kick up a good sweat or just want to find Zen through yoga-inspired movement, our Workout at Home videos are here to help them find a healthy balance in both their body and mind. View the videos.
New video focuses on COVID-19 testing
As a community, we are all feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since many people seem to have questions about COVID-19 testing, Independent Health recently produced a short video to help our members understand the types of tests that are available and when they should get tested. The video explains the differences between diagnostic and antibody tests and what members should do once they have their test results. In addition, our website has a special COVID-19 section that includes important and timely information about testing, vaccines, coverage for treatment and other related topics.
Reminder about our Community Report
Throughout our 40-year history, Independent Health has long had a clear sense of priorities for our community. The obstacles presented over the past year haven’t changed our mission but have only brought it into sharper focus. Our 2020 Report to the Community – Health and Hope Grow Here – highlights the power of collaboration and community as we help people get and stay healthy. Read our Community Report.