Combating America's Health Crisis

The healthcare ecosystem can be a very complex place, and it’s important to remember that a patient sits at the center, explained David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna Corp., during a general session on the second day of America’s Health Insurance Plans’ Institute & Expo.

The healthcare ecosystem can be a very complex place, and it’s important to remember that a patient sits at the center, explained David M. Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna Corp., during a general session on the second day of America’s Health Insurance Plans’ Institute & Expo, held June 15-17 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Cordani took the time to highlight the health situation patients are facing, specifically that there are forces of change happening rapidly in healthcare, such as a growing middle class, a global aging demographic, and eroding health status.

While communicable diseases do remain an issue around the world, noncommunicable disease, or chronic disease, is now the number health threat in the world, according to the World Health Organization.

“We have to recognize that we’re in a bit of a health crisis,” he said.

Cordani used the growing rates of obesity and diabetes in the United States to illustrate his point. Maps of the US showed rates of both diseases in 1994 and again in 2014. “It’s quite astonishing,” he said, to see how quickly rates increased from reasonable rates in the 1990s. Obesity rates for children between the ages of 6 and 11 quadrupled over the course of 24 years.

“We’re putting our children in a situation where the health burdens they will face in their lifetime will be greater than we faced,” he said.

The opioid epidemic was another area of discussion during the session. Cigna has recently committed to reducing its customers’ consumption of opioids by 25%, which would bring the company back down to pre-epidemic levels of consumption, Cordani said.

The decision was not a business one—rather, Cigna felt it was the right thing to do. Tackling the issue, though, starts with awareness, he said.

“We developed a societal norm … if you have an issue we have a pharmaceutical for you to resolve your issue,” Cordani said. “As a country, we’re fortunate that we do, but it might not be the right thing…”