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More employers join diabetes challenge


CHICAGO—Three employer members of the Midwest Business Group on Health are joining The Diabetes Ten City Challenge disease management program, bringing the number of participating employers to more than 30.

Employers Pactiv Corp. of Lake Forest, Ill.; the city of Naperville, Ill.; and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago have agreed to participate in the program, which intends to improve compliance with diabetes disease management protocols by waiving copayments and deductibles for diabetic plan members and providing them with one-on-one counseling to help them better manage the disease. About 100 of these employers' plan members are expected to participate initially, the MBGH said.

Counseling is particularly important because diabetics usually take seven to 12 prescription drugs to treat the disease and related conditions such as high cholesterol and hypertension, which often makes compliance difficult, according to organizers of the program.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 63% of people diagnosed with diabetes are not achieving control of the disease, which can lead to such complications as blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and amputations of the lower extremities.

Other Chicago-area employers will be solicited to join the project, which is to be expanded later to include other critical health care conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease and depression, said Larry Boress, president of the Chicago-based MBGH, in a statement.

The Diabetes Ten City Challenge, launched in October 2005, has received partial funding from drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Inc. of Research Triangle Park, N.C. However, participating employers pick up the tab for the waived copayments and counseling, said Bill Ellis, chief executive officer of the American Pharmacists Assn. Foundation in Washington, which is providing resources and project management tools.

The 10 cities participating in the project are Charleston/Spartanburg, S.C.; Chicago; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Cumberland, Md.; Dalton, Ga.; Honolulu; Los Angeles; Milwaukee; Pittsburgh; and Tampa Bay, Fla.

The Diabetes Ten City Challenge was fashioned after the successful Asheville Project to demonstrate that the model could be used effectively anywhere in the country. The Project—involving employees of the city of Asheville, N.C., and Memorial Mission Hospital—saved the employers between $1,622 and $3,356 per participant annually based on reduced emergency room visits and fewer diabetes-related hospitalizations.

That program, begun in 1997, has since been expanded to asthma, hypertension and high cholesterol.