RTW Makeover: Mental Health Comorbidities

DMEC Staff@Work

Mental Health Comorbidities Warrant Expert Advice

Mental Health ComorbiditiesBy Dr. Michael Lacroix

Associate Medical Director
Aetna Disability

You’ve no doubt heard that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” That’s because the parts don’t just add up, they interact. This concept of interaction applies across many phenomena, from the sublime (a collection of atoms put together in the right way creates sentient beings) to cooking (a few ingredients mixed in the right way can yield a fabulous béarnaise sauce) to disability claims.

When it comes to disability, however, we often miss that concept of interaction. Whether the disability is occupational or non-occupational, the first question for most insurers and employers usually relates to the diagnosis. On the basis of that diagnosis, insurers set aside a claim “reserve” on the expectation that, for a particular diagnosis, the claimant will be away for X number of days, or weeks, or months, or years. But people are more than the sum of their constituent parts. And for many short-term disability (STD) claims, the primary disability diagnosis is joined by other problems or “comorbidities.”

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