As I was growing up, I had a tough as nails, old-school grandpa. He never called a repairman; he fixed everything himself. He grew his own produce, long before organic, local-grown was in vogue. And he was fond of saying, "You do what you have to do to get to work, even if you have to drag your leg behind you."

I thought of this as I read news from the National Business Group on Health, which revealed that its latest research shows U.S. employers received an unexpected, but welcome fallout from the economic recession — fewer short and long-term disability claims and lower short-term disability costs per claim. 

The Employer Measure of Productivity, Absence and Quality (EMPAQ) annual survey found that STD claims declined 17.3% from 8.1 claims per 100 covered employees in 2008 to 6.7 claims per 100 covered employees in 2009. LTD claims dropped 26% from 4.6 claims per 1,000 employees to 3.4 over the same time period.

The survey also found that STD costs declined 15.9% from $343 per employee in 2008 to $296 per employee in 2009.  LTD costs, however, jumped by more than 25% from $10,507 per claim in 2008 to $13,226 per claim in 2009. 

Even with the rise in costs, that sounds like a lot of workers — perhaps fearful of layoffs during the height of the recession — may have been dragging a leg behind them, so to speak.

"When the recession began, many employers anticipated their short-term disability claims would increase," says Helen Darling, NBGH president and CEO. "However, this recession appears to have caused a somewhat opposite effect, with decreases in claims in 2009.  The collapse of the housing marketing and the unemployment picture may have caused employees to delay taking time off from work, especially for elective medical procedures."

Do NBGH’s results align with your company’s experience regarding disability claims? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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