Employer group suggests transportation benefits, PTO to help diabetic low-income workers

February 20, 2020

Diabetes is seventh on the list of leading causes of death in the U.S., according to 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC's "crude estimates for 2018" show a total of 26.9 million people in the U.S., or about 8%, had diagnosed diabetes. But the agency also estimated an additional 7.3 million adults ages 18 and older who met criteria for diabetes were not aware of or did not report having diabetes.

The risk of developing prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes is affected by a variety of factors, which can be exacerbated by low income, according to NEBGH. The group's guide pointed to research showing that low wages "are frequently associated" with living in poorer communities, food options that are high in salt and sugar, and working in "food deserts" where healthier food options are scarce.

Speaking of Employers: Purchasers Detail the Challenges of Getting a Handle on Oncology Care Costs

February 20, 2020

Good health benefits are essential to attracting top talent, but for employers, this comes at a price. An initiative by the Northeast Business Group on Health estimated that US employers spent $125 million on cancer care in 2015, or 12% of their entire healthcare spend.4 Cancer therapy costs have increased substantially since then, with the expanded use of immunotherapy, including the introduction of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy.

As today’s employers try to balance the need to provide healthcare for their workers while keeping an eye on cost, they are banding together to learn more about cancer care and how to gain value for the millions they are spending. Meanwhile, provider groups like the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) are reaching out to employer and purchasing coalitions to discuss how community oncologists can help hold down costs.

Last fall, the 2 came together during COA’s Payer Exchange Summit, held October 28 and 29, 2019, in Tysons Corner, Virginia. Evidence-Based Oncology listened as leaders from employer and purchasing groups shared experiences from their members in a roundtable discussion. 

Business group releases employer guide for managing diabetes in low-wage employees

February 17, 2020

The employer coalition Northeast Business Group on Health has released a guide for employers looking to better manage diabetes in their low-wage workers.  

Low socioeconomic status doubles the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to the NEBGH guide “Diabetes and Lower-Wage Workers,” released Feb. 12. Income determines what basic necessities like food, housing and education people can access, which may in turn affect people’s health. This is true for both hourly and salaried employees with low wages. 

Employer group issues guidance on health needs of lower-wage workers

February 13, 2020

The Northeast Business Group on Health has issued new guidance to help benefits leaders address the health care needs of lower-wage workers with diabetes and the rising costs associated with them.

The group outlined factors that should be considered for managing diabetes, such as limited access to healthy food options, stress, ethnicity and culture. It pointed out that lower-wage workers face unique challenges, including the potential for negative impacts from high-deductible health plans that are often favored by this group of workers for their smaller premiums.

The role of social determinants of health in the prevention and management of chronic conditions has garnered significant attention in Medicaid populations, said Candice Sherman, CEO of NEBGH. Some of the needs and differences in employee populations, however, have not been as closely considered.

"There are specific conditions like diabetes that are more prevalent among lower-wage workers," Sherman said. "For higher earners, diabetes is a hard enough condition to manage. It requires a lot of attention and lifestyle changes."

Lower-wage workers are more likely to live in food deserts or areas that lack parks or outdoor spaces in which to exercise, she explained. They also may be single parents with limited time and have more financial stress than their higher-earner counterparts.

To help address some of the issues, the group said, it recommended that employers give paid time off during working hours or grant a half day off for an annual checkup. It also recommended that employers provide access to on-site biometric screenings to give employees insights into their risk for diabetes.

Other recommendations included offering counseling services to help employees pick the best health plan for their personal needs and making insulin exempt from deductibles with no or very low patient cost sharing.

From the employer perspective, better managing the health care needs of lower-wage workers with diabetes can help avoid absenteeism, lower productivity and even higher costs from related conditions, such as cardiovascular disease.

U.S. studies have put the cost of diagnosed diabetes at nearly $330 billion annually, the group said. Low socioeconomic status doubles the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. —J.H.

Business group tapped to lead tristate’s mental health work

December 12, 2019

The Northeast Business Group on Health will lead new efforts to improve mental health and substance-use care in New York, northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut.

NEBGH told Crain's it has been selected to do so as part of the five-year, private sector initiative the Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance Use. The program was launched last month by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychiatric Association Foundation Center for Workplace Mental Health and Meadow Mental Health Policy Institute.

NEBGH will lead one of the initiative's eight Regional Employer Stakeholder Engagement Teams, or RESET, regions. The goal is to leverage the influence of employer and other health care purchaser members to work with health plans, hospital systems, consultants and other stakeholders to better address the ongoing public health crisis. (A recent report from Seattle-based consulting firm Milliman found that the crisis is getting worse when it comes to accessing the right care at the right time, and patients are more likely to resort to out-of-network providers for behavioral health care than for other care.)

"It's going to take a major effort on behalf of all stakeholders involved to solve this," said Candice Sherman, CEO of NEBGH. "The priorities set forth as part of this effort, and the fact that it's purchaser driven, are really going to make a difference."

The priorities are to improve access to in-network behavioral health specialists, expand the use of the collaborative care model to integrate behavioral health care into primary care, implement measurement-based care in both of those areas, expand tele-behavioral health and ensure mental heath parity compliance.

"These employers are the primary financiers of the system, and they will both set the tone and hold the stakeholders accountable for accomplishing these goals," said Michael Thompson, president and CEO of the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, in a statement.

Efforts also have started in California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The Path Forward is pursuing funding from a number of sources nationally, and RESET regions are expected to raise funding in their area. —Jennifer Henderson

The Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance Use Names Eight Regions to Spearhead Employer Efforts to Improve Access to Effective Care

December 11, 2019

The national steering committee for The Path Forward for Mental Health and Substance Use – National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, American Psychiatric Association (APA), American Psychiatric Association Foundation (APAF) Center for Workplace Mental Health and Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute – has selected eight locations across the nation to implement its multi-stakeholder transformative initiative.

Launched last month, The Path Forward has embarked on a five-year plan to execute a first-of-its-kind private sector approach to improve mental health and substance use care for Americans across the nation. As a key part of the initiative, the Regional Employer Stakeholder Engagement Team (RESET Regions) will leverage the influence of business coalitions, and their employer and other purchaser members, to work with health plans, health systems, medical and behavioral health providers, consultants and brokers to combat this public health crisis.

The RESET Regions and coalitions leading these efforts are:

  • California – Pacific Business Group on Health and Silicon Valley Employers Forum
  • Florida – Florida Alliance for Healthcare Value
  • Kansas – Kansas Business Group on Health
  • Maryland, District of Columbia and Northern Virginia – MidAtlantic Business Group on Health
  • Minnesota – Minnesota Health Action Group
  • New York City metro area including northern New Jersey and southern Connecticut – Northeast Business Group on Health
  • Tennessee – Memphis Business Group on Health and HealthCare 21 Business Coalition
  • Texas – Dallas Fort Worth Business Group on Health and Houston Business Coalition on Health

Human services providers beset by labor crisis

December 5, 2019

The effect of inadequate staffing of care workers can result in a cascade that begins to affect all businesses in a community.

It is estimated that one of every six employees provides informal care for a relative. A 2017 collaborative report by the Northeast Business Group on Health and AARP noted that those employees who are family caregivers spend, on average, four years in the role and 24 hours each week providing that caregiving assistance. Employers in the U.S. lose a reported $38 billion each year in caregiving-related costs due to lost productivity, absenteeism, increasing healthcare costs. and recruiting and training new staff.

New Resource Helps Employers Navigate Cancer Care

November 26, 2019

Employers can learn how to best support workers diagnosed with cancer using the Northeast Business Group on Health’s guide, “Delivering Value in Cancer Care: The Employer Perspective.”

“For employers, maximizing the value of cancer care spending and ensuring that employees receive high-quality care are top priorities,” the authors write. “But while these priorities are clear, the road map to achieving them is not.”

The 36-page guide is based on an employer survey, as well as a roundtable discussion and additional interviews with employers, health plans and care providers. Key considerations are listed to help employers better assess the ROI of cancer care benefits and programs, and the guide also details some “high-value initiatives” that employers have implemented to support workers and family members dealing with cancer.

Employers Look to Value-Based Health Care Strategies

November 19, 2019

The Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), an employer-led nonprofit coalition, recently posted an online guide to high-value cancer care. Delivering Value in Cancer Care: The Employer Perspective recommends giving employees and their families access to screenings for early detection, second/expert opinions, care navigation, high quality networks and centers of excellence, behavioral health care, and palliative/supportive care.

The guide also provides advice on how HR and benefit leaders can engage with vendors and health plans to make employees aware of the benefits and services available to them.

"For a growing number of employers, ensuring that employees and families receive high quality cancer care and maximizing the value of spending on care are top priorities," said Candice Sherman, CEO of NEBGH. "Unfortunately, while these priorities are clear, the roadmap to achieving them is not"—a need that the new guide is intended to address.

Caregiving While Working

November 19, 2019

Employers that have not implemented policies or practices for employees who are also caregivers may be open to doing so. AARP and Northeast Business Group on Health have developed a tool kit to help employers support their working caregivers. Share it with your employer to help them learn more.