12 November 2008

Thanks, JOEM

An article arried in the most recent publication of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine has calculated the cost to employers of having an employee with Crohn's disease.  The study took into consideration everything from short term disability costs to absenteeism, from hospitalizations to out-patient emergency room visits.  Want to know how much costlier us Crohnies are?
Annual medical expenses for Crohn's disease patients were $18,963 versus $5,300 for a matched comparison group. Ulcerative colitis patients' annual medical expenses were $15,020 versus $4,982 for the matched comparison group.
That's just for having Crohn's or colitis.  Now, add in surgery and those figures become unimpressive altogether.
Annual medical costs for patients with a gastrointestinal surgery were $60,147 for patients with Crohn's disease and $72,415 for patients with ulcerative colitis.
I would love to know why us Crohnies are more expensive than colitis patients except in the case of surgery.  The only thing I can figure is perhaps, since colitis is strictly located in the colon (whereas Crohn's can present literally anywhere along the digestive tract) that the colon is slower to heal and/or some Crohn's patients need surgery in more resilient areas?

Regardless of why there is a differential, what is plain to see is that no human resources director will read this information and want any part of hiring a Crohn's or colitis patient.  I cannot fault the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine for publishing these findings, nor can I fault the authors of the article for conducting the research.  The facts are what they are.  Still, as a Crohn's patient who has been out of work entirely too long already, I cannot help but wonder what impact these findings will have on the already limited employment opportunities available to my digestively challenged brethren.

Note: Clicking on the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine title in the first paragraph will link you to a Market Watch article detailing the findings of the original article.  Medical trade journal articles are not regularly made available to the public, so this is the best I can do for those who would like to review the information for themselves.

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