Modifiable health risks drive higher employer costs, study indicates
Researchers looked at the top modifiable health risks among employees at a large corporation to determine their health- and productivity-related expenditures. They also predicted potential cost savings from reducing risk prevalence among the employees.
Based on previous studies showing much of the overall health care costs are attributable to certain factors, the researchers examined the following health risks among the employees:
- High blood pressure.
- High blood glucose.
- High cholesterol.
- Inadequate exercise.
- Poor nutrition.
- Poor emotional health.
- High triglycerides.
- Poor safety practices.
- Tobacco use.
- High alcohol consumption.
Several risks were more closely associated with higher medical and/or productivity costs. Obesity, high blood pressure, high blood glucose, high triglycerides, and inadequate exercise had the greatest impact on total medical care costs.
In addition, researchers also looked at productivity expenditures, including absenteeism and presenteeism. They noted that research has estimated annual costs due to lost productive time at $1,392 to $2,592 per employee at risk.
The study examined the Mayo Clinic health assessment instrument in looking at the relationship between health risks and costs for the unidentified large Midwestern employer. The company had created a multipronged wellness program "aimed at increasing employee engagement, improving their health, moderating health care cost trends, and increasing worker productivity." The Mayo Clinic administered a health assessment and provided health promotion programs to workers that included access to a web portal, lifestyle coaching by telephone, and a health newsletter.
By linking the health risk profile of each employee to relevant financial metrics, the employer could determine the relative economic and productivity cost burdens by workers with health risks. For example, the study found that depression or poor emotional health was a significant predictor of medical costs. It also found poor emotional health and biometric risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high blood glucose and obesity, were significant predictors of higher costs.
Poor emotional health was also found to be a significant predictor of both absenteeism and presenteeism. Biometric risks such as high blood glucose and excess weight were significant predictors of higher absenteeism rates.
"For this employer, our analysis projects large medical care cost savings from reductions in health risks related to high blood glucose, high blood pressure and low physical activity, whereas the strongest potential for presenteeism savings lies in reducing emotional health risks," the study says. "Potential absenteeism savings, however, are relatively small compared with medical care and presenteeism savings. Stepping back and examining the areas where cost savings are most likely from risk reduction, it appears that targeting high blood glucose, high blood pressure, poor emotional health, and inadequate exercise would be most beneficial for this employer."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
July 7, 2011
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