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U.S. employers lost $96 billion in lost productivity costs between 2015 and 2018 due to the opioid epidemic, according to a study released Tuesday by the Society of Actuaries.
The Schaumburg, Illinois-based association concluded that costs associated with absenteeism, reduced labor force participation, opioid-related incarceration and employer costs for workers compensation and disability benefits make up 15% of total costs of non-medical opioid use to the U.S. economy.
Non-medical use of opioids cost employers $362 million in 2015 and grew to $500 million in 2018, according to the report. Short-term disability costs due to opioid use increased from $312 million in 2015 to $417 million in 2018, and long-term disability costs rose from $28 million to $58 million during that same period.
The report also estimated that additional disability and workers compensation costs for employees with opioid use disorder totaled more than $3.4 billion from 2015 to 2018, with workers comp accounting for the largest share of costs. The study predicts these additional disability and comp costs could range from a little under $1 billion to $1.2 billion in 2019 due to cost and population increases.
While the overall use of opioids among injured workers is trending downward due to the combined efforts of doctors, insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and regulators, older claims remain troublesome, experts say.