The Top Five Most Expensive Employee Health Conditions

Most insurance claims involve preventable conditions, which means your healthcare costs could be reduced if you know which conditions to be aware of.

As an employer, you are probably concerned about rising healthcare costs. The United States spends approximately $2.7 trillion on healthcare each year, and employers lose $225.8 billion in productivity due to health-related issues. However, most insurance claims involve preventable conditions, which means your healthcare costs could be reduced if you know which conditions to be aware of.

In the following list, we identify five of the most expensive medical conditions in the U.S. — and how to reduce your costs.

1. Heart Disease and Cardiac Issues

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in America, and the numbers are jaw-dropping:

  • 28.4 million Americans have been diagnosed with heart disease 
  • 6.5 million have suffered a stroke
  • Nearly 39 million Americans have high cholesterol 
  • Over 120 million Americans have high blood pressure

In all, heart-related conditions result in $316 billion in U.S. healthcare spending annually.

A proactive approach to heart health could dramatically reduce the severity and expense of your employees’ cardiac treatment. Regular health monitoring, lifestyle changes (such as a healthier diet and increased physical activity), and medication would dramatically reduce the number of deaths and serious cardiac events in the United States.

Tobacco and alcohol use are linked to certain types of cancer, heart disease, and organ damage. Additionally, alcohol might increase your risk of Type 2 diabetes, and tobacco use can cause chronic lung disease. Americans spend $300 billion on tobacco-related and $249 billion on alcohol-related medical issues each year.

Smoking and alcohol cessation is a vital part of your employee wellness program. Excessive alcohol use and even moderate tobacco use dramatically increase your employees’ risk for other serious medical conditions — increasing healthcare costs. You should consider making your campuses smoke-free and incentivizing tobacco and alcohol reduction or cessation.

3. Diabetes

Diabetes is a medical condition in which your body does not properly process glucose. Over time, diabetes complications might include heart disease, kidney failure, and retinal damage. About 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes and another 86 million have prediabetes. Experts estimate that there are millions of Americans living with undiagnosed diabetes as well. In all, diabetes-related expenditures account for $245 billion each year.

While Type 1 diabetes is not preventable and always requires medication, type 2 diabetes is a different matter. Many people can control their type 2 diabetes with increased physical activity, weight loss, a healthy diet, and other lifestyle changes. Diabetic employees should carefully monitor their blood sugar levels and schedule regular doctor’s appointments. Regular blood tests, retinal screenings, and clinical exams can help minimize or prevent serious complications.

4. Cancer

By 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) predicts that cancer will be the number one cause of death in the United States. Approximately 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, and we spend roughly $157 billion on cancer treatment.

While some cancers are preventable, many are not. Early and consistent screenings for breast, prostate, cervical, colorectal, and other cancers might decrease your employees’ need for intensive cancer treatments and improve their chance of survival. Compared to the cost of chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapies, these routine screenings are relatively inexpensive and painless.

5. Obesity

Obesity increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and severe arthritis. The U.S. spends about $147 billion on obesity-related medical care each year. Another $117 billion is spent on treatment related to physical inactivity. Studies suggest that obesity also increases workers’ compensation expenses.

Workplace obesity programs have been shown to help improve employee health. Consider introducing healthier food options, opportunities for physical activity, and weight-management services (such as access to a dietician). It’s also important to build a supportive and positive health culture in your workplace — stigmatizing obesity and physical inactivity will not motivate your employees and only lead to resentment and insecurity.

Build a Comprehensive Wellness Plan 

According to the CDC, 86 percent of our medical expenses are for chronic medical conditions. While some treatment is unavoidable, we can significantly reduce healthcare costs by encouraging preventive care and lifestyle changes. 

Every workplace is different. Before you implement new wellness programs, you should carefully evaluate your healthcare costs and employee demographics and look for trends such as underutilized health benefits and common health conditions among your employees. Next, identify resources within your workplace and community that can help address your employees’ needs. 

As part of your employee wellness program, consider implementing:

  • Clear workplace safety systems to limit workplace injuries
  • Opportunities for employees to engage in health-related activities such as onsite vaccination clinics, physical activity programs, and healthy dining options
  • Offer health plans that encourage and incentivize preventative care and wellness
  • Educational seminars or programs that increase your employees’ health literacy

If you need help with your workplace wellness plan, contact your insurance carrier partner or healthcare alliance.

Canopy Health Is Dedicated to Improving Employee Wellness

Our recent expansion into the South Bay brings our number of physicians in the Bay Area to nearly 5,000, as well as dozens of hospitals and outpatient centers committed to employee wellness. We emphasize proactive, comprehensive care that empowers our members and identifies chronic conditions before they become serious or life-threatening. 


Chronic disease overview (2017, June 28). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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Using the workplace to improve the nation’s health at a glance (2017, February 2). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from