The newest data brief from the Wichita Business Coalition on Heath Care provides evidence of why businesses are concerned about chronic disease:
* Medical expenditures and lost productivity attributed to diabetes in Kansas amounts to $1.5 billion a year, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
* Nationally, two-thirds of inpatient hospital costs for diabetes could have been avoided.
A coalition task force hopes to influence numbers like those by looking at ways employers, providers and others can work together to reduce costs associated with chronic diseases while improving quality of care. Chronic diseases are big drivers of employers' health care costs.
"What I think is so fascinating about so many of these issues is who really has responsibility for what," said Ron Whiting, executive director of the coalition.
In theory, patients are responsible for their own care. In practice, it doesn't happen that way, for reasons including financial barriers and lack of data among health care providers.
The task force's objectives include increasing communication between providers and employers, identifying best practices, identifying ways to monitor and benchmark performance, and increasing alignment among the worksite environment, patient environment, benefits design and clinical sites.
The task force will start with diabetes because it's a chronic disease where collaboration can pay off, Whiting said.
Shannon Krysl, director of employee benefits and insurance management for Wichita public schools, said that over the past three years, the school district has almost halved the number of high-risk diabetics it has by making changes to its health plan, including providing formulary insulin and testing supplies at no cost to the employee.
The coalition task force will be chaired by Catherine Holdeman of the city of Wichita and physician Ron C. Brown.