What is the Cost of SUDs for Employers, Employees, and their Health Insurance Payers?

A recently-published JAMA study titled, Medical Costs of Substance Use Disorders in the US Employer-Sponsored Insurance Population, examined the research question: What is the medical cost of substance use disorders (SUDs) for US employers, employees, and their health insurance payers?

The answer: of the 162 million non–Medicare eligible enrollees with employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) in 2018, 2.3 million had an SUD diagnosis. The annual attributable medical expenditure was $15,640 per affected enrollee and $35.3 billion in the population.

The authors said it best, so we’ll highlight their words:

  • “The cost of strategies to support employees and their health insurance dependents to prevent and treat SUDs can be considered in terms of potentially offsetting the existing high medical cost of SUDs.” 
  • "Not all people with SUDs have a diagnosis, and costs related to absenteeism, presenteeism, job retention, and mortality are not addressed.”
  • “In this study, 1% of the ESI population had an SUD diagnosis compared with 11% of workers who self-report SUD, suggesting the medical cost that employers and their health insurance payers face is likely far higher than reported here. Employers can take action by developing workplace-supported prevention, treatment, and recovery programs.”

Is your workplace Recovery-Ready? Project Manifesto will co-create your workplace-supported recovery program. Let us help you lead the way!

Creating Recovery-Ready Workplaces

In April, the Biden administration released its National Drug Control Strategy as a comprehensive outline  to address the current opioid crisis. In response to the harrowing number of overdose deaths in 2021  (≈106,000 lives), the 127-page document prioritizes actions that will save lives and get people the care  they need.  

The Strategy defines the four major dimensions of recovery as home, health, purpose, and community. Thus, recovery is measured by recovery capital—the resources that individuals develop and rely on to sustain and enhance their lives in recovery. Examples of recovery capital include internal resources such  as coping skills, resilience, and perseverance as well as external assets such as family, a supportive  community, and employment or meaningful work. 

A major focus of the Strategy is creating Recovery-Ready Workplaces, characterized by effective  policies and procedures that: 

  • Expand employment opportunities for people in or seeking recovery 
  • Encourage and facilitate help-seeking among employees with substance use disorder - Streamline access to essential services including treatment and recovery support  - Inform employees in recovery about their rights to reasonable accommodations and  other protections to help keep their jobs 

Recovery-ready workplaces can be instrumental to employers, employees, and the broader public in  reducing turnover, enhancing productivity, reducing health care costs, expanding the workforce, and  promoting overall well-being and recovery.  

Employers can be at the forefront of combating stigma and misunderstanding by fostering a  conscientious and compassionate culture that recognizes SUD as a health condition and welcomes and  supports individuals in or seeking recovery. 

Is your workplace Recovery-Ready? Lead the way!

The Impact of Peer Recovery Coaching

The long-term management required for chronic conditions such as SUD should mean long-term care. Manifesto’s peer recovery coaches extend the level of care into real-world scenarios where it's needed most, such as finding meaningful work and reaching the crucial one-year mark in recovery. 

A peer recovery coach brings the lived experience of recovery, combined with training and supervision, to assist others in initiating and maintaining recovery. Through shared understanding and mutual empowerment, peer support workers help people become and stay engaged in the recovery process and reduce the likelihood of relapse. 

*Infographic provided by SAMHSA