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October 2, 2018

E-Scooters Are Contributing To Your High Healthcare Costs

Artemis Health

Walking from one place to another may soon be a distant memory for many in American cities. Electric scooters are popping up all around the country, and commuters seem to love them. Some argue that they’re part of a sustainable transportation plan for cities struggling with congestion and pollution, while others see them as a public safety concern. From the safety perspective, they just don't fit in:

These scooters are too fast for the sidewalk, too slow for traffic, and too slow for bike lanes. There’s also the matter of parking, which — in many parts of the city — is a scarce commodity.

Predictably, injuries are a top concern of many who object to e-scooters. They’re freely available to anyone with a smartphone, regardless of their skill level or if they have a helmet handy. For this reason, accidents are inevitable.

The Washington Post recently reported on one ER’s observations right here in Artemis’ backyard, Salt Lake City. The University of Utah Health’s emergency department saw a 161% increase in scooter-related visits from this time last year, and that’s just the ER. Additional patients were likely seen at urgent care for less severe injuries like scrapes and minor bumps.

We wanted to see how the e-scooter trend might be affecting self-insured employers. So we dove into our handy demo data to search for demographics and cost information for common scooter injuries.

Wrist sprains are common in scooter accidents, as most people will attempt to break their fall by putting out their hand. Here’s what we found for this condition:

We found 7 patients with claims, and all of them were male and under age 19. These members paid about $1400 out of pocket for this injury, while employers paid anywhere from $2000 to $8400.

Next, we analyzed ankle fractures.

For this condition, we found a wider age range, anywhere from 0-9 up to 59 years of age. Members with claims for ankle fractures were more evenly split by gender, though paid amounts were roughly equivalent to wrist sprains. We didn’t include ankle fractures that required surgery in this analysis, though we’d likely find a much higher cost for those procedures.

Third, we took a look at broken arms. As anyone who has suffered a break can tell you, it’s a drag not only on your medical spending, but also on your productivity. Even those in office jobs will see a fall in their efficiency as a result of this injury. Here’s what we found:

Again, most of our sample members with broken arms were under 40, and they skewed slightly male. We included a number of different types of breaks (both radius and ulna, compound and hairline, etc.) to capture a more realistic picture of the types of injuries that can result from scooter accidents.

The Washington Post piece pointed out one serious potential impact of e-scooters: head injuries.

Emergency physicians in a dozen cities around the country have told The Washington Post that they are seeing a spike in scooter accidents. In seven cities, those physicians are regularly seeing “severe” injuries — including head traumas — that were sustained from scooters malfunctioning or flipping over on uneven surfaces, as well as riders being hit by cars or colliding with pedestrians.

In our analysis, we kept it simple by filtering claims to include just those for concussion. Here are the numbers:

Employers in this sample population are paying over $1 million a year for concussion claims, and they affect all ages of members. Members themselves are spending roughly $1000 on concussions.

Scooters may be fun, convenient, and novel, but if you’re seeing them pop up on the streets of your city, it’s worth considering the risks and costs associated with injuries like these.

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