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PPACA expected to aggravate job absences

Originally posted August 23, 2013 by Dan Cook on https://www.benefitspro.com

Under pressure to meet the basic requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers may be overlooking the law’s implications for employees’ attendance at work.

This observation comes from a survey of employers and insurance providers sponsored by the Disability Management Employer Coalition and Pacific Resources.

The researchers polled 169 benefits policy decision-makers in large organizations and 118 senior professionals in the insurance industry involved with absence management and disability issues. It asked a series of questions designed to measure their employers’ preparedness for the act’s full implementation, including whether they had thoughtfully considered how the reforms might change employee attendance at work and issues around worker disability.

Most have not, the researchers concluded. “While organizations may be prepared for the changes to health care and health insurance, most were not thinking about the impact of PPACA on disability and absence management,” the study said.

Another major finding: both employers and insurers surveyed anticipate “increased incidence and duration of long-term absences.”

Both employers and insurers tended to believe that employee absences will be more frequent and longer. The reason? With more Americans enjoying the benefits of health coverage, there will be longer waiting periods for access to care providers. This will be exacerbated, the report said, by the dwindling numbers of primary care physicians entering the profession.

“Most respondents believe access to routine care will change – 42 percent believe that the ability of employees to see a physician for routine care in a timely manner will get worse, while only 21 percent believe it will improve,” the study reported.

But when it came to questions about the act’s influence on disability issues, there was less clarity among respondents.

“There is more uncertainty about how PPACA will impact the number of disability claims, although those who feel knowledgeable enough to predict what will happen are more likely to believe the number of claims will rise due to employees no longer fearing a loss of health care coverage from a long-term absence,” the study said.

Overall, insurers took a more pessimistic view of the ways in which Obamacare might influence attendance and disability.

“Carriers are more likely than employers to think that PPACA will have an impact on absence and disability,” the study said.  “A third of employers and a majority of carriers believe PPACA will increase the incidence and duration of absences and disability. However, many have not yet considered this aspect of the law, as a quarter are not sure what will happen to absence and disability outcomes.”