Amid challenging economic times for U.S. businesses, a study of employers from the nonprofit Integrated Benefits Institute indicates that key aspects of medical and disability leave programs remained remarkably stable.
The incidence of short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) programs changed little between 2008 and 2010, and durations for STD and workers’ compensation temporary disability were essentially flat, according to the study by IBI, a supplier of health and productivity research.
The study draws on IBI’s benchmarking database, with data on more than 3 million claims for nearly 48,000 U.S. employer programs. To avoid confusion and misinterpretation, IBI examined results across the same employers when comparing 2010 claims results to 2008 and 2009 for short- and long-term disability and workers’ compensation.
Among other findings, the study showed that in 2010 more employees took continuous federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leaves to take care of their own medical conditions, rather than intermittent leaves or time off to care for family members.
Impact of Health Reform
"Research has repeatedly shown that the full costs of health—including absence, disability, reductions in employee performance and lost productivity—can often be greater than medical and pharmacy costs combined,” said Thomas Parry, president of IBI. “While there’s been a great deal of discussion around the impact of health care reform and anticipated health care cost increases for employers, little has been said about the more serious threats to employer costs and business results from employee absence from work if employers opt out the health care system. Employers that opt out will eliminate their ability to work in partnership with their health plans and providers to manage the health of their workforce.”
He added, "Employers need to carefully consider these broader issues in decisions about exiting the health care system. Those that continue to view medical costs in a separate and distinct program silo do so at their peril.”
Small Majority of Employers Track Absence-Related Costs, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, August 2011
After a Disability, a Return-to-Work Advocate Helps, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, March 2011
Return-to-Work Programs: A Foundation for Successful Workforce Management, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, February 2009
SHRM Online Benefits Discipline
SHRM Online Workplace Flexibility Resource Page
SHRM Online Health Care Reform Resource Page