Diabetes has long been a rapidly growing problem in the U.S., often called an epidemic. Currently, more than half of all Americans are pre-diabetic, so they are on the cusp, but can benefit from preventive care. In 2005, 18.5 million Americans were diagnosed with diabetes, which rose to nearly 26 million in 2011 (that is about 8.3 percent of the U.S. population). Experts expect this number to skyrocket to 40 million Americans by the end of 2015. This can be attributed to an aging population or rising obesity rates, or many other factors, but what is evident is that it is a national problem that employers must face.
In addition to harming people, this runaway growth of diabetes is also hitting employers across the country. Employees that are ill with diabetes have higher healthcare costs than their coworkers without diabetes, which is no surprise. However, the difference is a staggering $10,000 per year (roughly). The average employee’s health care costs are $2,500 on average, while those with diabetes usually cost more than $13,000. Total health care and related costs for diabetes treatment add up to about $174 billion per year.
Although the majority of that ($116 billion) is attributed to direct medical costs like hospitalization and other medical care, $58 billion of loss comes from indirect costs like disability payments, absenteeism from work, decreased productivity, and premature death. Absenteeism is a serious problem for employees suffering from chronic illnesses, especially those with diabetes. Men with diabetes miss work 11 days more than other men without diabetes, and women with the illness miss about 9 days more than women without.