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The health insurance company Cigna announced a new initiative last week in which it is “intensifying its commitment to curtail the opioid epidemic by focusing new drug prevention and treatment efforts in targeted US communities.” Cigna said its goal was to reduce the number of opioid overdoses among its customers in these communities by 25 percent by December 2021:
Initially, Cigna will focus its local efforts in areas where a sizable number of Cigna commercial customers reside and where there are higher than average overdose rates, including communities in the states of Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia and in the metropolitan areas of Chicago, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The goal is to reduce prescription and illicit opioid overdoses in these areas, and Cigna will advance initiatives that impact both Cigna customers and the communities at large. To support this initiative, Cigna and the Cigna Foundation will expand and accelerate the impact of community-based organizations that are leading localized programs. Cigna intends to learn from initial efforts during the three year time period and expand to other communities over time.
The main channel for these efforts is through health care providers, with whom Cigna is working to limit the prescription of opioid pain medication, address warning signs of opioid addiction, and guide patients toward less dangerous pain management options. Most US adults receive health insurance coverage through their employers, so partnerships with employers are also a key component of this effort, Cigna added:
We know that student loan benefits are a major boon to employees, and pay dividends to employers in terms of loyalty and retention. Now, evidence is starting to come in on the value of tuition assistance programs, and the news is just as good. A study by Accenture found that Cigna’s employee tuition reimbursement program had an ROI of 129 percent between 2012 and 2014—meaning for that every dollar spent, Cigna got that dollar back and generated an additional $1.29 in talent management savings, David McCann explains at CFO:
Cigna wanted to assess the impact of tuition assistance investment on both revenue generation and talent management costs. But because of the diversity of the company’s performance metrics across its workforce, it was unable to identify any revenue factors for which data was accessible for the entire population of program participants. Therefore, the analysis focused just on the impact on talent management costs. The 129% figure includes savings related to employee promotions, retentions, and transfers.
Specifically, the research found that [Education Reimbursement Program] participants were 10% more likely than other employees to be promoted. That saves money because the more senior the position, the more difficult it is to fill through recruitment. Indeed, from strictly a cost standpoint, retaining any employee is obviously vastly better than recruiting a replacement, and the study found that ERP participants were 8% more likely to be retained than other workers.
“Workers gained big, too,”the Atlantic’s Mikhail Zinshteyn adds: