Study says heart attacks cost employers $52K in productivity per long-term claim

(Bloomberg) — Heart attacks and chest pain suffered by workers can also be agonizing for employers who are hit with productivity losses of as much as $52,473 per disability claim.

A study presented Monday at the American Heart Association meeting in Los Angeles found that for every short-term disability claim filed due to acute coronary syndrome, the cost to employers was about $7,943 in lost productivity. Each long-term disability claim cost employers about $52,473.

Acute coronary syndrome, where blood supplied to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked, costs Americans about $150 billion each year and about 47% of those with the condition are working adults under age 65, says lead study author Robert Page. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in the United States., and employers should help workers reduce their risk with wellness programs for blood pressure, diet, exercise and blood sugar, Page added.

The condition “can be very disabling,” said Page, an associate professor of clinical pharmacy and physical medicine at the University of Colorado in Aurora. “That in turn impacts your work productivity. That impacts the employer and it impacts the employee. If you’re not able to go to work, you don’t have financial stability.”

Having a heart attack can lead to heart failure and patients may need to go to rehabilitation before they are able to get back to work. Many patients also suffer from depression after a heart attack, which can cause them to miss more days or be less productive on the job, Page said.

The researchers looked at about 37,000 short-term and long-term disability claims filed by employees for each acute coronary syndrome event. Short-term disability insurance kicks in right after an event and only lasts up to two years, while long-term disability insurance takes a longer time to start after an illness strikes and continues for an extended period of time and in some cases even until the insured dies.

“Acute coronary syndrome is not particularly viewed as a chronic severely disabling condition, but it really is and it should be treated as such,” Page said.

Heart disease also is expensive for workers who lose money being out of work.

For each short-term disability claim, employees lost about 60 days of work, and only 35 days on average were compensated. For each long-term disability claim, workers lost about 397 days of work and only 271 were paid for, Page said. Lost wages for employees filing short-term disability claims were about $2,000 and about $20,000 was lost for those filing long-term disability claims, he said.

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