The fact that cancer costs are higher than ever is reason enough for employers to be concerned, but new research is giving them another reason to worry: They may not be doing enough for employees suffering from the disease. Employers are concerned about the high cost of cancer care, but they’re equally concerned about making sure employees and family members diagnosed with cancer are receiving top-quality care, says a new report from Northeast Business Group on Health.
While employers are concerned about the high cost of cancer care, they want workers diagnosed with cancer to receive top-quality care. Nevertheless, employees or their dependents with cancer often go without second opinions on their diagnosis and treatment, aren’t directed to a high-quality network of oncology providers, and lack access to nonclinical support services, a new report from Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH), an employer-led coalition, shows. The report, Employers and Cancer Care Quality: A Closer Look, also found that employers want to make sure the dollars they invest in cancer care are well-spent, and that they have a strong desire to support the best possible outcomes and quality of life possible for those living with cancer.
Many employers are at a loss when it comes to determining the best and most cost-effective treatment plans for their workers who are diagnosed with cancer. A recent report from the Northeast Business Group on Health said employers cited cancer as the most complex employee health condition they encounter, because of the dual challenge of supporting workers during a difficult time as well as paying for their treatment. Insurers were not much help. "My plans always respond with information about activities instead of outcomes," one employer told NEBGH. Nationally, cancer treatment accounts for 12% of total medical costs for employers but only 1% of medical claims, according to the report. Employers spent $125 billion on cancer treatment in 2010 and incurred $139 billion in indirect costs related to employee productivity. Costs rise as new specialty drugs and treatments for cancer become available, the report noted. NEBGH recommends that employers offer workers who are diagnosed with cancer comprehensive educational resources that help them select the best treatment options at each stage of their disease.
NEBGH found that employers leading the way in quality cancer care have hired cancer nurse managers dedicated to their employees; implemented paid time off for approved family medical leave; developed a cancer-specific portal and guide for benefits, programs and policies; and trained managers and workers in appropriate behavior and human resource policies related to cases where an employee discloses a cancer diagnosis. The survey of 19 self-insured employers representing about 1.2 million workers showed that 58% of those surveyed provide employees with access to oncology centers of excellence, 48% offer critical illness insurance, and 42% provide a network of high-performing oncology doctors.
The Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH) devoted considerable resources in 2015 to study how employers with self-insured plans approach cancer treatment. Following workshops, interviews with plan managers, and a survey of about 20 self-insured employers, NEBGH said that employers clearly want individuals with cancer to have high quality treatment, but they have yet to develop a clear strategy for managing the cost of that treatment.
Northeast Business Group on Health is out with a guide for employers interested in digital tools for chronic disease, particularly preventing and managing diabetes. The group lauds the "convenience, personalization, data collection and management, customization of rewards and incentives, coaching and social networking."
The NEBGH guide categorizes 25 diabetes tools — many of which are available directly to consumers as apps or online — according to six primary capabilities: group-based health courses with live coaches; integrated glucometer with enhanced communication; scripted algorithm-driven coaching; device data download and display; provider-based care management platform; and individualized live coaching.
NEBGH's guide can also help employers determine which digital features are most important in addressing the specific challenges with workplace diabetes programs, and serve as a starting point for matching solutions.
The Northeast Business Group on Health on Tuesday released a guide that aims to help employers evaluate the various digital tools available for preventing and managing diabetes among their employees.
The guide also pinpoints specific features, such as educational content, tracking components and social networking capabilities, and rates each tool based on how likely it is to encourage engagement among employees, according to the statement.