UnumProvident: 100 Percent Increase in Diabetes Claims

December 14, 2004

More employees are taking time off from work to deal with health concerns related to diabetes, according to a study released by UnumProvident, titled “Type 2 Diabetes: Managing a Costly Disability.” UnumProvident, a provider of disability insurance, reports a 100 percent increase since 2001 in the number of workers filing disability claims for type 2 diabetes.

UnumProvident’s research reportedly shows that an employer’s costs associated with these claims are staggering: Disability expenses, direct medical costs and related health costs, where diabetes is a contributing factor, combine for an annual average cost of $33,495 per claimant.

“The indirect costs tracked in our research come primarily from healthcare expenses related to the treatment of other life-threatening conditions associated with diabetes like heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure,” said Dr. Robert Anfield, vice president and medical director for UnumProvident. “Many of these indirect costs can be eliminated with early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.”

Workplace impact
“More than 17 million adults have type 2 diabetes, and the incidence rate is growing as our population continues to battle with obesity,” Anfield said, citing U.S. Centers for Disease Control statistics. “For today’s employers, this trend impacts workplace productivity and the bottom line.”

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), diabetes was
associated with 88 million lost workdays in 2002 and resulted in 176,000 cases of permanent disability. The ADA reports that direct and indirect healthcare costs attributable to diabetes reached $132 billion in 2002, making diabetes the ninth most costly medical condition in the United States.

Managing diabetes
According to a 2003 report from the Midwest Business Group on Health, a Chicago-based coalition of private and public employers, underdiagnosis and inadequate treatment of diabetes is one of the most costly problems for health care purchasers. Further, inadequate treatment and underdiagnosis of diabetes can result in unnecessary and avoidable costs of the disease like limb amputations and blindness — as well as tens of thousands of premature deaths.

“Employers can play a significant role in helping individuals manage diabetes and therefore manage employee absences and related disability and healthcare costs,” Anfield said. “For example, companies can help reduce their medical costs by assessing their need for diabetes education and management at their worksites. Employers can institute health and wellness programs that promote physical activity, weight control and a healthy diet.”

The National Business Group on Health has established a Web site to
further help employers — http://www.diabetesatwork.org .

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