Employers Split On Impact, Cost Of Migraine

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In a survey of large employers released today by the non-profit Midwest Business Group on Health, 91 percent of respondents recognize that migraine headaches impact productivity, yet most don't track the costs or seriousness of the problem in their covered populations. And despite the fact that employers rely on their health plans and wellness vendors to help manage worker productivity and costs associated with migraine, they often don't know how effective these programs are.

The National Headache Foundation (NHF) estimates that U.S. industry loses $50 billion per year due to absenteeism, lost productivity and medical expenses caused by migraine.

"This research is part of an ongoing effort by MBGH to educate our employer members on the importance of early and ongoing screening to prevent and identify health issues that are impacting their covered populations," said Larry Boress, MBGH president and CEO. "Migraine is a serious, neurological, chronic condition that non-sufferers often view as only stress-related and easily treated. The reality is that it results in lost productivity and causes significant disruptions to migraine sufferers' work and personal lives."

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Additional survey findings:

* While 76 percent of responding employers indicated they have not calculated the direct and/or indirect costs of migraine, the impact is considered a more costly and serious problem for employers involved in manufacturing, with 44 percent responding that this is a concern. Forty-seven percent of employers are interested in tools to measure the costs associated with migraine.

* Most employers offer migraine resources and programs with the majority offering health coaches/nurse lines (38 percent); migraine materials and website information from health plans or vendors (24 percent) and onsite clinics (24 percent). Employers consider the health coaches/nurse lines to provide the most valuable support.

According to the NHF, nearly 30 million Americans -- or one in eight workers -- suffer from migraine, an illness characterized by a variety of symptoms, including sharp throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, nausea or vomiting, visual disturbances and sensitivity to noise and light. With the help of a health care provider, migraine headaches can be effectively managed and patients can identify and alleviate their symptoms with an appropriate treatment regimen.

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