Study: UnitedHealthcare’s Diabetes Health Plan Can Lead to Improved Health, More Effective Disease Management, Better Cost

  Study: UnitedHealthcare’s Diabetes Health Plan Can Lead to Improved Health,
  More Effective Disease Management, Better Cost Control

  *Incentives effective in increasing employee adherence to treatment
    guidelines, improving health
  *Health care costs for Diabetes Health Plan participants rose at a 4
    percent slower pace than for control group

Business Wire

MINNEAPOLIS -- January 10, 2013

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
    plan;
  *the compliance rate of plan participants increased 6 percent over two
    years.

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, UnitedHealthcare.

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
The 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 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
“Disease-management programs 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 kidney failure.

“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 activities.”

* 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.

About UnitedHealthcare
UnitedHealthcare 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 well-being company.

Contact:

UnitedHealthcare
Media Contact:
Lynne High, 952-979-5861
Lynne_m_high@uhc.com
 
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