September 23, 2015

Cigna study: Incentives motivate workers to improve health and reduce healthcare costs

Health improvement programs and incentive strategies help people address the conditions that increase healthcare costs, according to a three-year study of health plan consumer data by Cigna, which shared the findings this week.

The Cigna study of 200,000 customers shows how a handful of correctable health conditions, as indicated by unhealthy biometrics, can contribute to average annual healthcare costs. The study found:

- A body mass index (BMI) of more than 30 increases total healthcare costs by an average of more than $2,460 per customer per year, and adds $492 in annual out-of-pocket costs.

- A cholesterol reading of more than 240 translates into an average total healthcare cost increase of $1,644 per health plan customer per year, and adds more than $353 in annual out-of-pocket costs.

- Two or more chronic conditions indicated by unhealthy BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar raises annual out-of-pocket expense by almost $1,300 per year, and total healthcare costs by nearly $9,000 per year.

Those who have not undergone a biometric screening have higher health costs, the study found. For example:

- Those who have not had a biometric screening of their blood pressure values on average have total health costs that are $2,064 higher per year, and $400 more in out-of-pocket costs, than those who have verified that their blood pressure is lower than 140/90.

- Those who have not had a biometric screening of their blood glucose values on average have total health costs that are $1,332 higher per year, and $266 more in out-of-pocket costs, than those who have verified that their blood glucose is lower than 100.

The study shows how incentive programs – such as consumer premium discounts, or health spending account funds – influence individuals to participate in a biometric screening, to engage in healthier behaviors, and improve their clinical outcomes and costs. According to the Cigna study:

- Incentives more than doubled biometric screening rates from 20 percent to 55 percent in 2014.

- Incentives increase the probability of engaging in a coaching program by 24 percent and by 30 percent for populations who have chronic conditions.

- Incentives significantly increase the probability of setting and meeting goals with a health coach, by 18 percent and 43 percent, respectively.

- Incentives increased the probability of meeting biometric targets: BMI less than 30 – an improvement of nearly 36 percent; total cholesterol less than 240 – an improvement of nearly 11 percent; blood pressure less than 140/90 – an improvement of more than 47 percent.

- Incentives reduced total medical costs by approximately 10 percent for those 50-plus or with chronic conditions.

"Employers are increasingly rewarding employees who identify and address their potential health risks, by discounting the employee's health plan premiums or adding funds to their health spending account to lower their annual out-of-pocket expenses," Cigna's chief nursing officer, Mary Picerno, said in the release. "In 2014 Cigna distributed more than $80 million in rewards to Cigna group health plan customers who completed 1.6 million health goals. In the first eight months of 2015, Cigna customers have earned $93,814,080 in awards through their employer incentive programs."

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