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Reducing Workers Compensation Costs With Healthier Employees

Healthy employees are better for business. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has noted that many employers are implementing programs to help their employees lead healthier lifestyles.[1] In addition to reducing risks of developing chronic diseases, increased worker productivity is another benefit of having healthy employees.

Today’s business owners have also started to realize the connection between workplace health and their workers’ compensation insurance costs. Dr. Dwight Robertson, Vice President of managed care services for EMPLOYERS®, said there is greater emphasis on treating the whole patient. That involves also treating comorbidities, diseases that are the result of, or strongly related to, a primary disease, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues, anxiety and lack of social support, that may be associated with a workers’ compensation insurance claim.

“The intention is both to reduce these comorbidities preemptively and address them along with the employee’s injury,” Robertson said. “This can result in less costly claims and get people back to work faster.”

For instance, the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index indicates that over 57 million additional unplanned days of work are missed each year by workers who have diabetes, compared to workers without diabetes, at a cost of $20.4 billion annually to U.S. employers.[2]

Robertson referred to a national grocery store chain that has begun using a screening tool to predict prolonged recovery in its employees’ injuries3. This tool helps determine which claims may need more support and additional interventions early on to shorten the time it may take for the injured employee to return to work. Interventions may include offering exercise programs and physical therapy, or increasing communication to keep the injured employee on track if he or she lacks family support. On the other hand, this grocery chain can also better predict which cases are likely to have lower risk and may need fewer resources. By accounting for comorbidities early in the treatment process, this business has achieved a 30 percent total loss cost reduction, a significant savings in all costs related to medical and disability or lost time from work.

While smaller companies may not have access to the same kinds of tools or data-sets as large companies, Robertson suggested steps they can take to improve workplace health and reduce their workers’ compensation insurance costs. For starters, they should provide healthcare coverage or strongly encourage all employees to obtain healthcare coverage through a state market exchange. Many health insurers have programs to help their members track and reduce their blood pressure, manage diabetes or even protect themselves and others by getting an annual flu shot.

Simple lifestyle changes can reduce comorbidities’ impact on employee injuries and workers’ compensation claims. Employees can encourage each other to eat healthier or get more exercise during the day by taking short walks during the lunch hour.

Robertson also noted technology will continue to play a greater role in reducing comorbidities. Wearable fitness trackers can encourage people to exercise more and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Telemedicine options, including the ability to video chat with a nurse, physician’s assistant or doctor, can also help employees be healthier.

By taking active steps to improve workplace health, address potential comorbidities and maintain a safe work environment, business owners can reap the many benefits of having healthy employees and potentially lower their workers’ compensation insurance costs. For more information, contact EMPLOYERS® today.

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The National Healthy Worksite Program,” https://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/pdf/nhwp-program-overview.pdf
[2] Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, “State of American Well-Being. The Cost of Diabetes in the U.S.: Economic and Well-Being Impact,” November 2017. https://wellbeingindex.sharecare.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/The-Cost-of-Diabetes-in-the-U.S.-Economic-and-Well-Being-Impact-2017.pdf
[3] https://www.safetynational.com/conferencechronicles/outcomes-of-a-workers-compensation-early-intervention-for-delayed-recovery-program/