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Dayton Business Journal...
Ohio on list of worst states for binge drinking
by Laura Englehart, Reporter
Saturday, January 21, 2012 

It turns out that Ohioans can really throw ‘em back, and that’s bad news for employers. 

A recent federal report shows that nearly 20 percent of Ohioans 18 and older said they binge drink, which for men means consuming five or more alcoholic drinks within a short period, and for women, four or more. 

Ohio ranks ninth in the U.S. for highest rate of binge drinkers. Wisconsin led the nation with nearly 26 percent of adults who binge drink, and Utah reported the lowest rate with about 11 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which compiled the report. 

Across the U.S., more than 38 million adults binge drink. 

“Because of the economy, there are more people stressed out and medicating themselves through alcohol,” said Peter Ambrose, regional vice president of behavioral health operations for WellPoint Medical Management, which is part of WellPoint Inc.   

Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield — which has local operations — is a subsidiary of WellPoint. 

Along with increased odds for injury and death caused by automobile accidents, violence and suicide, drinking has expensive consequences for the overall economy. 

In 2006, expenses tied to drinking hit $223.5 million, and of that, 70 percent was blamed on losses in workplace productivity, the report said. 

Many companies provide help for employees addicted to drugs or alcohol, and those who do not could open themselves up to higher insurance premiums, more frequent workers’ compensation claims and productivity and product losses. 

While some employees skip work altogether after a night of drinking, others who do show up are less prepared or focused on their job — a capacity sometimes called “presenteeism.” And those presentees could present more risk to their employers than no-shows. 

“There are certain professions — more blue collar — where it can affect liability,” Ambrose said. 

Factory workers, for instance, could injure themselves or others on the job more easily after binge drinking the night before, which could result in more workers’ compensation claims and product losses. 

Even employees with family members addicted to drugs or alcohol could prove less productive. 

“If my wife suffers from substance abuse, if I’m at work, I’m thinking of her,” Ambrose said. 

Where the down economy has forced more Americans to binge drink, it also has caused employers to look seriously at their employee benefits. Ambrose said mental health coverage, which includes drug and alcohol addiction treatment, often comes under fire. 

“We see more asking for solutions to help deal with problems, and (mental health benefits) is one of the top three areas they try to look at,” to lower their premiums, Ambrose said, but he often talks employers out of it. 

“It’s penny wise and pound foolish,” he said. “I tell them, ‘Don’t shortchange yourself. For every $1 you save, you’ll lose $20.’ ” 

Another recent report, by UnitedHealthcare — parent of UnitedHealth Group Incorporated, which has a regional headquarters in West Chester — put Ohio’s binge drinking more in the middle of the pack, ranking in No. 34 in the U.S., based on the number of adults who said they drank excessively in the last 30 days. 

Read this and other articles at the Dayton Business Journal




 
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