The diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea in U.S. workers suffering from the sleep condition is an ongoing battle. The cost of health care for those afflicted with sleep apnea is one of the main reasons why it is so difficult for those suffering to want to get tested and seek treatment. However, when looking at the healthcare costs resulting from untreated sleep apnea versus healthcare costs resulting from treated sleep apnea, the difference is apparent. The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASPA) is working with various fleet owners to seek treatment for OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) as an investment rather than a cost.
From the fleet owners’ standpoint, research shows that up to $165 billion in annual costs for the fleet company are related to sleep apnea with $5 billion to $10 billion as a result from lost productivity and $10 billion to $40 billion spent on traffic accidents related to fatigue. Additionally, as much as $45 billion to $80 billion are spent on “hidden” health care costs resulting from undiagnosed sleep apnea, such as hospitalization. On the other hand, only $2 billion to $10 billion in costs are spent on the diagnoses and treatment for OSA. When comparing this amount compared to the overarching $165 billion in potential costs of untreated sleep apnea, the numbers speak for themselves.
The treatment of sleep apnea not only benefits the fleet owner financially, it also provides healthy and happy drivers. Undiagnosed sleep apnea is connected with a variety of other chronic disorders such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes. Treatment allows for the drivers to maintain a better quality of life and for the fleet owners to save costs on a variety of different healthcare conditions connected with sleep apnea.
Since 2010, awareness about OSA has been on the rise throughout the trucking industry, however now, medical officers are insisting to broaden the message and awareness of the impact of sleep apnea to other transportation sectors and the U.S. working community as a whole. The trucking industries exposer to OSA and its treatment, although viewed by truck drivers in a negative light, is in reality putting the trucking industry ahead of the curve regarding preventative health and cutting healthcare costs.
In a study done by Schneider National, it was reported that out of the 19,371 drivers tested, 79.7% suffered from some degree of sleep apnea, 31% of the total suffering from severe sleep apnea. The gold standard for treatment for OSA is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. Utilizing this treatment would result in significantly lower apnea symptoms, reduction in health care costs, and most importantly, a decrease in the risk of crashes caused by fatigue.
Another study compared those diagnosed with OSA and were being treated versus those diagnosed with OSA not receiving treatment. The results indicated that there was a 40.6% decline in missed workdays in the group that was undergoing treatment, as well as a 47.8% decline in disability claim rates, with a total of $6,341 in savings in annual health care expenses. A similar study found a 73% reduction in preventable accidents for treated OSA drivers.
In either scenario, funds will have to be set aside to finance the ongoing battle of healthcare costs, but in regards to OSA and its treatment, the research all points to diagnosing and treating sleep apnea as the cheaper and all around more advantageous path to take. AllTrans Medical understands the lengths it takes for fleet owners to diagnose and treat OSA for its drivers and plan to work with the fleet, providing a program that takes care of screening for sleep apnea to treatment. With our cost effective and comprehensive program, fleet owners can feel confident that their drivers are being taken care of.