How the Right Employee Benefits Can Make Life with a Chronic Illness a Little Easier

Estimated Read Time: 2:30

Executive Summary: Six in 10 adults live with chronic illness in the United States. Find tips on how your organization can support employees–or their loved ones–who may be living with a chronic condition, including:

  • Offering solutions that can help employees manage chronic conditions in a cost-effective way.
  • Sharing remote resources and tools that can provide personalized health support.
  • Creating a workplace culture that displays awareness and acceptance for invisible illnesses.
  • Helping to promote healthy everyday habits among your workforce.

In the U.S., 60% of adults live with a chronic condition and 40% live with two or more chronic conditions. Having these types of long-term diseases can be a financial burden and make it difficult for people to obtain and manage their health care. Here’s how offering robust health benefits can help lighten the load for employees who have a chronic illness or have loved ones who do.

Cost-effective solutions

Health savings accounts (HSAs) can help employees use pre-taxed dollars to cover qualified medical expenses, including treatments, medications, co-pays and even devices like blood sugar test kits for diabetics. This is especially valuable for employees if their organization also makes contributions to their HSAs. Tools like Reduce My Costs, available to eligible Harvard Pilgrim members, can also help employees save on high-quality care while earning cash rewards.

Personalized wellness resources and tools

To help individuals living with chronic illnesses, your health insurance carrier may offer virtual wellness tools and other more personalized resources for members. For instance, Harvard Pilgrim’s nurse care managers can work one-on-one with members with chronic conditions to help with the planning, coordination and implementation of care plans. This can be done remotely and include assisting with evaluating different health care options and services available. Health coaches are also available to support members in learning about their health, setting health goals and staying motivated to achieve them.

Supportive work culture

Chronic conditions like diabetes or heart disease are often described as invisible, because from the outside, a person can often look completely healthy. The same goes for invisible disabilities like autism, depression or dyslexia. The reality, however, is that the symptoms associated with chronic illness can vary and be unpredictable for the person living with it, and that may not be something they want to share with their employer. A workplace culture should recognize that anyone could be dealing with a chronic illness and offer flexible work options for their employees. Offering resources like training, employee resource groups (ERGs), allowances for remote work or workplace accommodations are all ways to support employees who may benefit, whether you realize it or not.

Healthy living reminders

Everyday healthy habits can contribute to preventing some chronic illnesses. And by creating an environment that encourages wellness and healthy living, employers may help contribute to lowering the risk of chronic illnesses. Employees can be encouraged to get enough sleep, take restorative time off when needed and get regular screenings to help catch signs of chronic illness early. Additionally healthy eating habits and regular exercise may be fostered by stocking nutritious breakroom snacks and offering fitness reimbursement benefits when possible. These and other reminders of healthful living are great ways to help employees keep chronic illness at bay.

Offering a wide variety of employer benefits that provide flexibility, understanding and healthy encouragement can go a long way in making chronic conditions more manageable. This type of support can help employees maintain a healthier outlook and bring their best selves to work.

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