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Health of U.S. Workforce Declining and Driving Up Employer Costs, According to New Index from Thomson Reuters


Overweight and Obese Have Largest Impact on Employers’ Healthcare Expenditures

Ann Arbor, MI,– The unhealthy behaviors of the U.S. workforce cost employers an average of $670 per employee annually, according to the new Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index.

The Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index gauges six behavioral risk factors to track the collective health of working Americans with employer-sponsored health insurance ― and the costs associated with less-than-optimal health.

An index score of 100 represents the ideal state where there are no behavioral risk factors present in the population and, therefore, no healthcare costs attributed to health risks. From 2005 to 2009, the index declined 2 percent from 86.4 to 84.4.

This decline in overall population health ― as measured by body mass index, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and tobacco and alcohol use ― contributes to rising healthcare costs for U.S. employers.

In 2009, about 14 percent of direct healthcare costs for the employed, privately insured population were associated with these six behavioral risk factors, according to Thomson Reuters’ analysis. That amounts to $670 per employee, with $400 of the overall cost attributed to high body mass index, which is used to measure obesity. Elevated blood glucose was the second most significant factor, accounting for nearly $150 per employee per year.

“This analysis shows that employers striving to reduce healthcare costs would be wise to address the behavioral risk prevalence of their workforce,” said Dr. Raymond Fabius, Chief Medical Officer at Thomson Reuters. “This type of analysis generates real value by spotlighting areas for improvement. When employers, insurers and others take a close look at how their beneficiaries compare with national norms, they can begin to identify and target specific problem areas.”

The Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index will be updated annually.

The index is based on healthcare data from the Thomson Reuters MarketScan® Research Databases and national behavioral risk prevalence rates from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey public use files.

Thomson Reuters
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