Disease management is catching on in Kentucky, or at least advocates hope it will. The Louisville Courier Journal's Stephenie Steitzer reports that the Bluegrass state is stepping up efforts and outreach to get eligible state employees and retirees with chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease into disease management programs. PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that the state could save up to $10 million in just one year with a relatively modest enrollment increase. One challenge is logistics. The Employees Health Plan covers 260,000 people—current and retired state and local government workers, teachers, community college employees and their dependents—who are scattered in many locations. But the PWC study said the savings could hit $10 million by getting just 2,000 of the 40,000 with chronic diseases into programs. Right now only 600 are participating, illustrating the problems that the state has had moving people into both disease management as well as wellness programs, including weight loss and smoking cessation, since introducing them in 2006.
State officials are seeking advice from private sector employers and local governments who have been building wellness and disease management programs to cut health care costs, trim sick days, and boost productivity. The Louisville metro government for instance rewards workers who participate in exercise programs with gift cards worth up to $250 a year. A city official said 30 percent of the metro government's 6,000 employees have participated in the past 18 months, walking more than 8 million miles and earning $32,000 in gift cards for stores like Target and Best Buy.
Logan Aluminum Inc., which employs 1,000 people in Logan County, has seen a 19 percent drop in health-care costs after implementing an incentive-based wellness program in 2003, said Teresa Lovely, a wellness program coordinator for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. Ninety percent of Logan Aluminum workers participate.