Medical, disability and productivity costs are considerably higher for workers who suffer from 2 or more serious medical problems than for workers who suffer from just 1 problem.

Researchers at the Integrated Benefits Institute, San Francisco, have published data supporting that conclusion in an analysis based on data on 15,000 disability claims and claims for patients with 53,000 medical conditions from 183 employers.

CIGNA Corp., Philadelphia, supplied the data, which was collected over an 18-month period.

The analysis is unusual, because databases that combine disability claims data with medical claims data are rare, according to the IBI.

Although disability claims payments accounted for only 20% of the total medical and disability claims costs, 10% of the disability cases accounted for more than half of the total medical and disability costs, the IBI researchers report.

Disability cases involving multiple medical episodes cost, on average, 24% more than cases with just one medical episode, the researchers add.

The researchers also are emphasizing the costs of lost productivity.

Each disability absence was associated with an average of just $3,800 in disability claims payments, but each disability absence also was associated with an average of $13,600 in medical costs and $22,800 in lost productivity, researchers report.