UnitedHealthcare’s Diabetes Health Plan Can Lead to Improved Health

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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, MD, 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.