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Workers who have health insurance are less likely to miss work than uninsured workers

Workers who have health insurance at some point during the course of a year are significantly less likely to miss work than uninsured workers, concludes a study supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS00005). This suggests that there are potential financial benefits to employers who provide health coverage to employees, note Jennifer H. Lofland, Pharm.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., of Thomas Jefferson University, and Kevin D. Frick, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Of a national sample of 25,676 individuals, about half (54 percent) reported missing work during the previous year. The average annual number of missed workdays among those who missed work was a little more than four, which is consistent with other studies.

After controlling for other factors, workers with health insurance were 12 percent less likely to miss days from work. Those with insurance who missed work missed 0.017 fewer days than the uninsured. Greater access to health care (for example, ease of appointment booking and contacting the usual source of care) was associated with 0.0047 more missed workdays. Health care use was significantly associated with increased likelihood of and greater number of missed work days. However, health care use may have confounded the effects of health insurance and missed work, note the researchers.

By ensuring that all employees have health insurance coverage, employers may begin to see decreased absenteeism rates among their employees, which may have a positive impact on the firm's bottom line. These findings were based on retrospective study of data from the 1996-1999 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey of U.S. employees.

See "Effect of health insurance on workplace absenteeism in the U.S. workforce," by Drs. Lofland and Frick, in the January 2006 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 48(1), pp. 13-21.

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