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Survey: Women Lack Confidence in Insurers, Employers to Meet the Needs of People With Migraine

Jaime Rosenberg
The survey of more than 340 women revealed an overwhelming belief that people with migraine are dismissed as exaggerating their symptoms and that employers don't understand the burden of migraine on their employees.
A survey of more than 340 women with migraine and other migraine stakeholders revealed that although migraine has a debilitating impact on relationships and careers, the majority lack confidence in health insurers and employers to meet the needs of those suffering from the condition.

Migraine, which affects approximately 39 million Americans, is disproportionately present in women, who account for over 75% of those with migraine. Recent research has attributed this to the way that fluctuations in estrogen levels affect cells in the brain.

Among the women who responded to the survey, 93% said that people with migraine are often dismissed as exaggerating their symptoms or not feeling severe pain, 97% said migraine and headache disorders strain relationships and disturb family life, and 94% said migraine and headache disorders have a serious impact on communities and workplaces.

“An overwhelming majority of women who responded agreed that migraine strains relationships, impacts family life, and hurts people’s careers,” wrote the authors of the survey report. “Yet only a minority believed that people with migraine are willing to tell their employers or that employers will respond appropriately when told.”

While employers spend about $84,000 per 1000 employees annually on migraine-related costs, respondents indicated that employers may not recognize the impact of migraine and may not respond appropriately to employees with migraine. The overwhelming majority (94%) of respondents said employers don’t understand the burden of migraine on their employees and 30% said they are willing to tell their employer about their condition.

Just 1 in 5 believes that after an employee discloses their migraine, their supervisor will respond with understanding, helpful assistance, or accommodations.

Outside of the workplace, respondents cited access to treatment as a pressing issue for people with migraine. In the past, people with migraine have struggled with limited treatment options. The emergence of a new class of drugs—calcitonin gene-related peptide inhibitors—for the prevention of migraine has brought promise for migraine treatment, with 86% of respondents saying innovative medicine could revolutionize migraine treatment.

However, 77% of respondents said health plan designs make it difficult for patients to access available treatments and 90% said that by requiring prior authorization or step therapy, health plans prolong pain in patients with migraine. The majority also said that patients with migraine don’t understand the process of pursuing treatment if their insurer initially denies coverage (79%) and that physicians and their patients, not health plans, should decide which treatment is appropriate for their migraine (97%).

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