Businesses, States Take On Chronic Disease Management
Some major employers and state governments are beginning to offer programs that provide prescription drugs at no cost to employees with chronic conditions in an effort to avoid paying for costlier treatments in the future, the New York Times reports. No-cost drugs can serve as an incentive to employees with serious health problems to maintain their prescribed regimens and also to check in with nurses and pharmacists who regularly monitor their weight, blood pressure and other vital signs.
"Another motive for the business world" in providing medicines at no cost "could be to stave off a greater government involvement in health insurance, now that most presidential candidates and other politicians are promoting health care reform," according to the Times.
Some experts note that companies with high rates of worker turnover might avoid such programs because of concerns that they will not reap the eventual savings, while smaller employers might fear that implementing such programs would attract too many workers with chronic illnesses (Freudenheim, New York Times, 2/21).
Large companies such as Scotts Miracle-Gro have begun to hire third-party health management firms that offer wellness programs and perform health-risk assessments of employees, BusinessWeek reports.
The programs have helped companies save money and have improved many employees' health, but the "wellness craze raises important issues," including concerns that "people could start blaming unhealthy colleagues for helping push up premiums" or that companies could expose themselves to lawsuits over privacy and discrimination issues, according to BusinessWeek (Conlin, BusinessWeek, 2/26).
In related news, PBS' "Nightly Business Report" on Tuesday reported on companies that operate their own on-site health care clinics for employees. The segment profiles Wisconsin-based Quad Graphics, a printing company that 17 years ago opened an on-site clinic with the aim of reducing health care costs.
The segment includes comments from Leonard Quadracci -- president of QuadMed, the company founded by Quad Graphics to operate its clinics; Michael Cryer, national medical director for Hewitt Associates; and John Neuberger, vice president of operations at QuadMed (Eastabrook, "Nightly Business Report," PBS, 2/20).
A transcript of the story is available online.