Disability claims and overweight people

Photo: Getty Images

Aging and overweight baby boomers are creating a new health insurance challenge: How to successfully manage disability claims when claims based on joint and musculoskeletal disorders are beginning to rival cancer as a top disabilities driver?

This information comes from Unum, a leading provider of disability insurance. Unum reviewed claims data generated during the past decade, and spotted the trend toward weight and age-related claims.

Cancer continues to be the leading claims generator, the company said. But here’s what’s happening due to boomer’s continued presence in the workforce:

  • Over the decade, Unum found a 33 percent increase in long-term disability claims and 14 percent increase in short-term disability claims for musculoskeletal issues.

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  • It also noted a 22 percent increase in long-term disability claims and 26 increase increase in short-term disability claims for joint disorders.

“Two particular trends are driving this experience,” said Greg Breter, senior vice president of benefits at Unum. “Aging baby boomers are staying in the workforce longer, and more than a third of U.S. adults are classified as overweight or obese. Research is showing that obesity is contributing to a dramatic increase in knee replacement surgery and exacerbates other conditions like arthritis, back injuries and joint pain. In addition, we also see obesity contributing to other issues, like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and respiratory problems, and certain types of cancer.”

Unum said these trends are likely to continue as an increasing number of workers are expected to decide to keep working past the traditional retirement age of 65.

Based on its research, Unum released the following lists of top five causes of claims for 2015:

Long-term disability:

  1. Cancer: 16.5 percent
  2. Back disorders: 14 percent
  3. Injury: 10.4 percent
  4. Cardiovascular: 9.6 percent
  5. Joint disorders: 9.2 percent

Short-term disability:

  1. Pregnancy: 27.4 percent
  2. Injury (non back): 11.3 percent
  3. Joint disorders: 7.2 percent
  4. Back disorders: 6.7 percent
  5. Digestive system: 6.6 percent
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