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Untreated Alcohol Problems Increase Health Plan Costs

Identifying and treating alcohol problems is good for health plans. Experts predict that the cost of providing employee health insurance coverage will double by 2007 — prompting many employers to consider strategies to help control costs. Increasing access to alcoholism treatment can reduce health care utilization and improve the health of beneficiaries.

How? Alcoholism is a chronic disease with many similarities to asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure. Most employers don't recognize that it typically progresses in stages. Many people aren't aware that brief, inexpensive interventions can help people cut back on their drinking before they become dependent on alcohol. Unfortunately, by the time many people seek help for alcoholism, they require more extensive and expensive treatment. As a result, problem drinking, which can range from a drunk driving accident to acute liver disease, can increase health care costs and have a negative impact on health plans.