News & Commentary

Cigna Sees Promise In Disability Program

A Cigna program that seeks to predict — and intercept with guidance and treatment — employees likely to miss work because of conditions that are chronic, that are likely to recur, incompletely resolved, or that are developing showed a 15 percent reduction in short-term disability claims for those employees. The study of 118,000 workers appears in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

The company used what it calls the Absence Prediction and Prevention program — which relies on predictive modeling to identify employees likely to go on disability in the next 12 months — and employs nurses to work with these people. “Short-term disabilities impact productivity in the workplace, but often don’t register with other predictive or risk assessment strategies that focus on future medical events,” says Robert Anfield, MD, Cigna’s CMO for disability plans.

For example, earlier Cigna research showed that people who have been out of work on family medical leave for a family reason were 50 percent more likely to have a subsequent short-term disability claim for behavioral illness than those on family medical leave for other reasons, but this risk may not be identified through the person’s medical claim history.

The employees were in Cigna’s disability and medical plans from Oct. 1, 2009 through May 31, 2010. Employee groups ranged from 2 to 21,431.

Two incentives were offered: an $80 gift card for completion of the initial health assessment by the nurse and a $120 gift card for participating in the program itself. The employees were divided into control and intervention groups.

At the 12-month follow-up, according to analysis of claims, there was a lower incidence of short-term disability in the intervention group than in the control group.

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