Workers who have rheumatoid arthritis (RA) cost their employers about $5,200 more than those who don’t, according to a study in in the March Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, official publication of the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM).
The study brings into sharp focus the reason why many employers rate rising health care costs as one of their top concerns.
The most common type of inflammatory arthritis, RA affects many working-age adults and can have a significant impact on work ability.
Using a large insurance claims database, analysts compared costs to employers for 2,705 workers with RA versus more than 338,000 workers without RA. The analysis included direct costs such as health care as well as indirect costs such as missed work days.
|The authors believe their study may underestimate the true cost impact of RA for U.S. employers.|
Average annual costs were about $5,200 higher for workers with RA: $8,700 versus $3,500 per employee. Ninety percent of the excess costs related to RA were for direct health care costs.
However, workers with RA still averaged about 3.5 additional health-related absence days per year, including more sick days and more short-term disability time.
Overall, workers with RA incurred an additional $5.8 billion in additional costs per year, of which $5.2 billion was for direct costs. Workers with RA also accounted for 4 million additional lost work days.
The authors believe their study may underestimate the true cost impact of RA for U.S. employers — especially when reduced productivity on the job (presenteeism) is considered.
Lead researchers Richard A. Brook, MS, MBA said the data emphasizes the need for effective management strategies that can reduce the burden of illness.
Brook is with The JestaRx Group, Newfoundland, N.J.