Consumers Have Costly Health Risks and Don't Know It

A 3-year study of 200,000 Cigna customers has revealed just how expensive correctable health conditions can be and not knowing what health conditions they have can cost consumers even more.

A 3-year study of 200,000 Cigna customers has revealed just how expensive correctable health conditions, such as higher weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure, can be to individuals. Even worse, not knowing what health conditions they have can cost consumers even more.

Cigna found that individuals who have not undergone a biometric screening have higher health costs. For instance, patients who have not had a biometric screening of blood pressure values have health costs that are $2064 higher per year than people who verify their blood pressure is lower than 140/90.

“In too many cases our health and costs are getting worse, but it’s also in our power to change that,” Cigna Chief Nursing Officer Mary Picerno said in a statement. “Yes, we have to work hard, and have to do things we haven’t done before, but still, we can change it. And when we do, there can be financial rewards, along with the ultimate reward of better health.”

Overall, annual out-of-pocket costs increases $492 with a body mass index (BMI) of more than 30 and more than $353 with a cholesterol reading of more than 240. In addition, 2 or more chronic conditions indicated by unhealthy BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar, increases annual out-of-pocket costs by almost $1300 and total healthcare costs by nearly $9000 per year.

However, the good news is that Cigna’s study revealed incentive programs play a key role in getting individuals to undergo biometric screenings, engage in healthier behaviors, and improve clinical outcomes and costs. With incentives, biometric screening rates increased from 20% to 55% in 2014. Incentives also increased the probability of meeting biometric targets.

“Employers are increasingly rewarding employees who identify and address their potential health risks, by discounting the employee’s health plan premiums or adding funds to their health spending account to lower their annual out-of-pocket expenses,” Picerno said.