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April 21, 2014

Help groups manage rising costs for allergy sufferers

Most people view allergies as just a minor inconvenience. But they pose a serious health risk for an estimated 25 percent of the U.S. population; in urban areas, that estimate doubles to 50 percent.

Allergies also pose numerous productivity-related challenges for employers, including your clients. Health insurance professionals are well positioned to take the lead in alerting employers to the costs, risks and solutions associated with allergies.

First the bad news: Allergic rhinitis (hay fever) can lead to asthma, sinusitis and other chronic health problems—especially in children. The number of people with food allergies is rising dramatically, too, along with costs for treating severe reactions. Last year Employment Law Worldview published an article saying, “the number of food allergies has increased 50 percent … between 1997 and 2011.  Every three minutes, someone is brought to the emergency room due to an anaphylactic reaction.”

The total financial impact of allergies—on patients, employers and the health care system—is estimated at $18 billion per year. A significant portion of that is workplace-related, involving absenteeism and reduced worker productivity from allergies, asthma and sinusitis—not to mention ER visits associated with shock from food allergies. Not just for workers themselves but also for the cost of caring for family members.

Despite all these direct and indirect costs, allergies often go undiagnosed—and untreated. Most patients self-medicate using over-the-counter products for symptom relief.

What can you do to become part of the solution?

  • Meet with your clients proactively to alert them to the cost of doing nothing about allergies and its co-morbidities.
  • Encourage clients to recommend allergy testing for employees and their families.
  • Use social media like Facebook and Twitter to tell clients and prospects about the magnitude of the problem.

Taking the lead on allergy awareness is more than a humanitarian gesture. From a business perspective, it can boost enrollment, add to your credibility, build your network and bring in referrals. And it just might prevent a sneeze or two.

Sources: Employment Law Worldview and Corporate Wellness

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