CIGNA Study: Combined Medical and Disability Programs Lead to Fewer Workplace Absences and Lower Costs

  • CIGNA customers with integrated programs have short-term disability absences 13 days shorter compared to customers with disability-only programs
  • Customers with integrated plans experienced 11 percent better return-to-work rates
  • Study shows that employers with 5,000 employees could save nearly 2,500 days of disability absences per year

PHILADELPHIA--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Employees who have both disability and medical coverage from CIGNA (NYSE: CI), and who also suffer a short-term disabling illness or injury, return to work more often and spend less time away from work on leave than those without the integrated program. This is the conclusion of a new study* by CIGNA1 comparing integrated and non-integrated disability and medical plans.

In any economy, employers pay attention to labor costs. Chief among the cost drivers is lost productivity due to disabling illness and injuries. In fact, according to research by Mercer, on average, approximately nine percent of payroll goes to cover the direct and indirect cost of unscheduled absence.2 CIGNA's disability management model is strong on its own, with short-term disability durations that are eight percent -- or five days -- shorter than industry average.3 By combining CIGNA’s award-winning clinical health and wellness programs with its leading disability management and return-to-work services, CIGNA’s Disability & HealthCare Connect® does even more to help workers reduce the risk and impact of disabling illness and injury, recover faster, and get back to work sooner. In turn, this helps the companies they work for improve productivity, lower absence costs, and strengthen their bottom line.

“Reining in costs associated with employee absence is an imperative for employers,” said Mark Marsters, senior vice president, Group Operations for CIGNA. “CIGNA's integrated disability and medical programs provide more opportunities to encourage and engage employees to improve their health and reduce disability absence, which benefits the employees as well as their employers.”

CIGNA’s study found that individuals using CIGNA's integrated program were absent 20 percent less than those who had disability coverage alone. If each day of disability costs an employer $159 in direct and indirect costs,4 a company with 5,000 employees covered with CIGNA medical and disability programs could expect 2,500 fewer days of disability, representing nearly $397,500 in direct cost and productivity savings.

“Preventing illness or injury doesn’t stop once an individual begins a short- or long-term disability absence. One condition can lead to another,” said, Dr. Jeffrey Kang, M.P.H., CIGNA chief medical officer. “Proper coaching and other steps can help prevent an individual’s difficult situation from becoming worse. As the study shows, an integrated medical and disability program creates a more coordinated effort to help individuals return to work and stay healthy and on the job.”

Among individuals with an integrated program who do require short-term disability leave, the study shows CIGNA customers required on average 13 fewer days of disability time than those individuals who did not have access to an integrated program. They also experienced an 11 percent better return-to-work rate than those without the integrated plan.

An important component to CIGNA’s Disability & Healthcare Connect is its integration with CIGNA's chronic care program. Customers with specific chronic conditions are provided education and coaching support to help them improve their medical condition.

According to another study conducted by CIGNA, chronic care participants who experience a disability miss nearly four fewer days than those with chronic conditions not participating in the program. Active participants also show a slightly higher return-to-work rate than the non-active participants.


The results reflect only the studied population. The CIGNA 2010 Integration Value Study adjusted for observable differences between groups including age, gender, industry, disability benefit type and previous disability. Individuals were matched 1:1 for inclusion in the study, essentially creating two substantially similar study populations to minimize the effects of bias. Outcomes were based on a retrospective analysis of the study population’s 2009 claims experience and may not be typical for all clients. The study excluded normal pregnancy claims.

Similarly, a separate study of chronic care participants examined two matched groups of individuals based on demographic and health risk variables, with the one (study) group being those invited and actively participating in the chronic care program, and the other (control) group being those invited but not actively participating in the chronic care program. For inclusion in the study, individuals had to have combined CIGNA Disability and Medical coverage, and be identified by CIGNA for participation. The study was conducted over a four-year period.


CIGNA (NYSE: CI) is a global health service and financial company dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and sense of security. CIGNA Corporation's operating subsidiaries in the United States provide an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision care benefits, as well as group life, accident and disability insurance. CIGNA offers products and services in over 27 countries and jurisdictions and has approximately 65 million customer relationships throughout the world. All products and services are provided exclusively by such operating subsidiaries and not by CIGNA Corporation. Such operating subsidiaries include Life Insurance Company of North America, CIGNA Life Insurance Company of New York, and Connecticut General Life Insurance Company. To learn more about CIGNA, visit To sign up for email alerts or an RSS feed of company news, log on to Also, follow us on Twitter at @cigna, visit CIGNA’s YouTube channel at and listen to CIGNA's podcast series with healthy tips and information at or by searching "CIGNA" in iTunes.

1 CIGNA 2010 Integration Value Study

2 “Survey on the Total Impact of Employee Absences” by Mercer/Kronos, June 2010

3 Integrated Benefits Institute, 2008. Industry benchmarking for short-term disability.

4 $159/day direct and indirect costs calculated based on the following inputs:

  • An average hourly wage of $20.67 and a benefits loaded average wage of $29.71 based on Bureau of Labor Statistics’ “Employer Costs of Employee Compensation,” March 2010
  • A 60 percent short term disability benefit, and return-to-work rate of 85 percent
  • Lost productivity of 1.61 times the direct benefit costs based on ”Measuring the effects of work loss on productivity with team production” Nicholson S, Pauly MV, Polsky D, Sharda C, Szrek H, Berger ML. Health Econ. 2006 Feb; 15(2):111-23.


Jim Angstadt, 215-761-8748
[email protected]

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