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Obesity is a major cost driver in workers’ compensation claims, as Kevin Glennon, RN, BSN, CDMS, CWC, QRP FL-W/C, well knows. As vice president of clinical services at Total Medical Solutions (TMS), a complex care products and services company specializing in workers’ compensation, he gives a presentation on the topic a couple of times a month.

In his talks, Glennon cites a Duke University study, “Obesity and Workers’ Compensation,” that found that obese employees experience more than twice the number of claims of recommended-weight workers. Additionally, workers’ compensation claims involving obese employees are 2.8 times more expensive than claims for employees of normal weight, according to statistics from the National Council on Compensation Insurance. As the claims age, the costs go up: At five-year maturity, “obese” claims are 5.3 times more expensive than “non-obese” claims.

Numerous factors contribute to the higher medical costs, such as medications dosed according to individual body weight. It takes 295 units of the powerful antibiotic Cubicin to treat a 130-pound individual, for a cost of $590 per treatment. However, it takes 800 units ($1,600) to treat a 350-pound claimant. Equipment is another factor. Durable medical equipment for bariatric patients costs 35 to 45 percent more than for normal weight claimants. However, perhaps the highest cost drivers are the co-morbidities associated with obesity, such as diabetes, cardiovascular and arterial disease, and orthopedic issues drive medical costs.

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