Study Links Health Care Cost-Sharing and Increased Disability

June 27, 2007 ( - Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI) has conducted the first study to link higher health care copays to health-related productivity by examining prescription medication habits of employees with chronic conditions.

According to an executive summary of the research results, among employees with rheumatoid arthritis, an increase of $20 in prescription copays reduces the proportion of employees taking at least one disease-modifying drug by 35% and reduces the number taking at least one symptom-relieving drug by 84%.

Further, the study showed that for workers that filled at least one disease-modifying prescription, versus workers who filled none, the incidence of disability was decreased by 36%, and the duration of disability instances was decreased by 6%. According to the research summary, IBI also found that employers with a greater proportion of workers filling at least one disease-modifying prescription had consistently fewer short-term disability incidents.

This translates to a lost productivity savings of $3.2 million from reduced incidence and $1.2 million from shorter durations, according to the research summary.

“As employers understand that providing effective, available health care is an investment in human capital that will pay off in real dollars by decreasing overall health-related costs, they may want to rethink their approach to measuring and investing in employee health and productivity,” said Jack Mahoney, MD, medical director at Pitney Bowes, in an IBI press release.

IBI analyzed rheumatoid arthritis because there are clear evidence-based medical guidelines regarding prescribed medications and a strong connection between rheumatoid arthritis and work disability.

Members can access the full report at .