The High Price of RA Employees

Rheumatoid arthritis patients incurred higher health care and workplace costs

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) From treatments to doctor visits, living with a long-term disease like rheumatoid arthritis costs money. After taking a closer look, researchers found that there are also hidden costs to living with this disease.

In many cases, patients with rheumatoid arthritis pay for more than the cost of prescription medications and medical care. There's also a price to pay for missed work days.

According to a recent study, the average yearly costs for workers with rheumatoid arthritis were $5,212 higher than for those without rheumatoid arthritis.

While most of these extra costs were for direct healthcare costs (medications and medical care), about 10 percent of the costs were due to missed work days.

"Get treated for RA - call a doctor."

For their research, Nathan L. Kleinman, PhD, of the HCMS Group, and colleagues set out to study the direct and indirect costs of rheumatoid arthritis.

Direct costs include the costs of things such as medical care and prescription medications. Indirect costs include sick leave, short- and long-term disability payments and workers' compensation payments.

Dr. Kleinman and colleagues looked at data of workers who were enrolled for at least one year in an employer-sponsored healthcare plan. The study included 2,705 employees with rheumatoid arthritis and 338,035 without the condition.

Results showed that employees with rheumatoid arthritis had average medical and prescription medication costs that were $4,687 higher per year than those without rheumatoid arthritis. Indirect costs were $525 greater per year among employees with rheumatoid arthritis than those without.

Compared to employees without the condition, employees with rheumatoid arthritis spent 3.58 more days away from work, including 1.2 more sick days and 1.91 more short-term disability days. 

Applying their findings to the US workforce as a whole, the researchers estimated that workers with rheumatoid arthritis accounted for an extra $5.8 billion in costs per year.

The researchers also estimated that an additional four million lost work days were the result of workers with rheumatoid arthritis.

These findings show that workers with rheumatoid arthritis may have higher direct and indirect costs, as well as more absent days, than workers without rheumatoid arthritis.

According to the authors, the results highlight the need for effective management of rheumatoid arthritis in order to "reduce the burden of illness and economic losses incurred."

The study was published in the March issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM).

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Review Date: 
March 11, 2013
Last Updated:
August 16, 2013