Migraine Has Impact on Both Healthcare Costs and Lost Productivity

Jaime Rosenberg

In addition to the medical costs associated with migraine, employers also bear costs due to lost productivity. Employers that offer healthcare benefits, paid sick days, and disability insurance benefits will spend about $84,000 in annual migraine-related costs for every 1000 employees, of which nearly one-third is attributable to lost work time, according to a report from Integrated Benefits Institute (IBI).

Between 2011 and 2015, 14% of employed US adults reported having migraine in the prior 3 months. Women were more than twice as likely to report migraine (20% vs 9%). Prior studies have suggested that women may be more susceptible to migraine due to the way that fluctuations in estrogen levels affect cells in the brain.

Researchers collected data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Medical Expenditure Panel Survey on healthcare costs and illness absences, data from IBI’s Health and Productivity Benchmarking System for short-term disability (STD) and long-term disability (LTD) outcomes, and US Bureau of Labor Statistics information on wages and benefits.

Just one-fifth of those who reported migraine were receiving treatment, and women were almost 5 times more likely than men to be receiving treatment (5.2% vs 1.1%). When assessing for comorbidities, researchers found that 1 in 3 employees with migraine also had obesity. One in 5 patients also experienced mood disorders, back pain, anxiety, and hypertensive disease.

Excess medical and pharmacy treatment costs for employees with migraine averaged to almost $2000 a year. Those treated for migraine also had an average 2.2 more sick days per year, averaging out to approximately $600 in wages and benefits.

Each year, there were an average of 2.4 new claims for STD for migraine per 10,000 covered employees, resulting in an average of 38 lost workdays. According to the researchers, the average STD claim costs approximately $7700 in wage replacements and paid employee benefits, which represents about $10,400 in lost economic output.

If the employee continues into the LTD system, there are an average of 179 lost workdays per year and additional costs amount to approximately $37,000 per year.

“Even though migraine is common, employers have not focused on it because the treatments have been relatively inexpensive. The productivity losses we found in this report should help a lot of companies understand the real impact it has on their bottom line—especially considering that migraine is both underdiagnosed and undertreated,” said Brian Gifford, PhD, director, research and analytics, IBI. “Hopefully employers will take productivity into account when they consider adding new treatment options to their benefit plans and workplace policies that help people with migraine stay on the job.”
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