Companies Pay High Price For Employees With Crohn's Disease
A study published today in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that annual medical expenditures for Crohn's disease patients are more than three times higher than those for a matched comparison group of patients. Similar results were found for people with ulcerative colitis.
The study examined both direct medical costs - inpatient and outpatient hospital care, office visits, emergency room visits, and prescription drugs - and indirect costs - absenteeism and short-term disability expenses - for patients with employer-sponsored health insurance. Annual medical expenses for Crohn's disease patients were $18,963 versus $5,300 for a matched comparison group. Ulcerative colitis patients' annual medical expenses were $15,020 versus $4,982 for the matched comparison group.
Over 1 million individuals in the United States are affected by Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, which are inflammatory bowel diseases. Many are first affected in their 20s and 30s, during prime working years.
In severe cases, gastrointestinal surgery can be warranted, resulting in high costs. Annual medical costs for patients with a gastrointestinal surgery were $60,147 for patients with Crohn's disease and $72,415 for patients with ulcerative colitis.
Patient samples for the study were selected from the Thomson Reuters MarketScan databases representing the healthcare experience of almost 100 large U.S. employers. Patients who had an episode of Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis (involving at least one inpatient admission, one emergency room visit or two outpatient visits) were matched with patients with no indication of either disease but similar in other respects (demographic, health plan, location, and health status characteristics).
The Healthcare business of Thomson Reuters conducted the research in collaboration with researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago, Emory University and Bristol-Myers Squibb, which funded the research.
"Employers and workers should continue to develop strategies to manage chronic illnesses that can generate significant costs for healthcare services and may affect productivity," said Teresa Gibson, director of health outcomes for the Healthcare business of Thomson Reuters and lead author of the study.
In this case, absenteeism costs were not substantially higher for workers with Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis than it was for the control group. However, patients with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis were somewhat less likely to participate in the workforce, with annual short term disability costs for both conditions exceeding controls by $1,000 per employee.
"These results emphasize the importance of early diagnosis and appropriate treatment to address the costs of disability and lost productivity to employees and employers," said co-author Wayne Burton, M.D., adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental and Occupational Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago.