The Workplace Report

Wellness vs. Ignorance: Which Is Bliss?

We have a bigger problem than excessive test cost waste.

testingcostVia Employee Benefit News comes an article that asks whether it is more cost effective to “over-test” for chronic illnesses/diseases, or just wait for them to happen and take that cost as it arises. It’s a simple enough question, but the answer isn’t so simple:

Today, there is an open debate on whether biometric testing and health screenings promoted by wellness programs are adding to a culture of over-testing in healthcare. Employees have more responsibility than ever for both the cost and control of their health, yet they are getting confusing guidance about how frequently they should be assessing their health risk. Over the past year, the United States Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) has called for more conservative or less frequent screenings for breast cancer, blood pressure and colon cancer. But we’re not getting any healthier:

· 27% Americans are living with some form of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.

· 47% of Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and/or smoking, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

· 50% of Americans have either diabetes or pre-diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association.

· 69% of American adults are either overweight or obese—increasing their risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many other chronic conditions, according to the CDC.

· 12% of women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lifetime.

With all that, it would seem obvious to even the casual observer that testing-regardless the cost-would be a money saving no-brainer.

Not so fast says the author.

On the other hand, a simple blood test can detect whether you have — or are at risk for — the most common chronic conditions. In addition, a $50 biometric test that reveals cholesterol, BMI, blood pressure, and blood sugar readings provides essential — sometimes lifesaving — knowledge. This knowledge empowers every person. Each can know what diseases they may be susceptible to, so they can learn their medical options and decide if and how they will take action.

The bottom line is that one out of every two people in America has at least one chronic condition according to the CDC, and many more are at risk for developing one. Many of these men and women do not know they are living under the shadow of sickness. By not testing for disease, we may be taking a costly risk — perpetuating a “culture of chronics”— and choosing ignorance over knowledge.

Given the relative ignorance many employees have regarding their basic health status, it may be more cost effective, for smaller employers at least, to invest in wellness and healthier living and get out of the testing game. As the author suggests… “[m]ost people don’t know the basics about their own health — 83% of people don’t know their blood sugar level, 81% their cholesterol level, 79% their BMI, and 68% their blood pressure.”. If that’s true then we have a bigger problem than excessive test cost waste.

[Images courtesy of Osceola Schools Wellness program & Employee Benefit News]

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