The Gift that Keeps on Taking

Unwrap five stories to understand why your company is spending more than ever on health care.

I’m a sucker for holiday traditions. No matter how frenzied and unpredictable the year was, I know I can count on Chinese food on Christmas Eve and a new pair of gym shoes waiting for me under the tree. In keeping with that spirit, we’ll end the year of Explanation of Benefits the same way we did last year—with a page full of updates.
Employers rank the costliest
chronic medical conditions
As I’ve said before, I don’t mind being wrong, but I love being right. Last month, we warned employers to take diabetes more seriously. Well, guess what? Diabetes topped the list of the costliest chronic medical conditions for employers. That’s according to a survey of 530 employers by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans for the IFEBP’s 2017 Workplace Wellness Trends report ( Some 41 percent of the employers—431 from the U.S. and 99 from Canada—cited diabetes as the most expensive chronic medical condition their workers had (see chart). More than 90 percent said they offered wellness-related programs for their employees, but less than half—48.1 percent—said they included disease management services. Even less said they offered nutritional counseling or healthful food choices in cafeterias and vending machines, at 33.2 percent and 44 percent, respectively.
Doctors say much medical care
is unneeded, but blame patients for making them do it
In September, we talked about the use of unnecessary medical treatments and overspending on necessary medical treatments that could be provided for less ( Both drive up health care costs for employers. As it turns out, most doctors agree with me. Researchers from the Harvard Medical School and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine asked 2,106 physicians about their views on wasted medical treatment, its causes and possible solutions. The consensus, published in the journal PLOS One, was that 25 percent of diagnostic lab tests are unnecessary, as are 22 percent of prescription medications, 21 percent of overall medical care and 11 percent of medical procedures ( They cited fear of malpractice lawsuits (85 percent), pressure from patients (59 percent) and difficulty accessing patients’ previous medical records (38 percent) as the top three causes of overtreatment. Their top three solutions were: training