The Health Care and Productivity Costs of Back and Neck Pain in A Multi-Employer Sample of Utility Industry Employees

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Abstract

Objective:

To determine the cost of back and/or neck (B/N) pain among predominantly rural employees insured through an employee benefits trust.

Methods:

Eligible employees had 1 year or more of medical coverage and completed a survey subsequently linked to their claims data. B/N pain costs consisted of medical and pharmacy claims, over-the-counter expenses, and presenteeism and absenteeism costs valued according to median occupational earnings.

Results:

Of 1342 eligible employees, 52.7% currently had B/N pain of which 87.9% was chronic. The average annualized cost of B/N pain per employee was $1727; 56.1% was due to lost productivity. Covered medical care was utilized by 35.6% of employees, 55.7% used pharmacy care, and 71.6% purchased uncovered over-the-counter pain medication.

Conclusions:

Many covered employees did not use formal care. The effect of care choices on productivity costs requires closer scrutiny.

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