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Cancer diagnosis leaves employers looking for more resources


Employers say they need resources for providing guidance to workers diagnosed with cancer and evaluating the quality and outcomes of cancer treatments available, according to a report released Thursday.

A lack of information has left employers unsure of how to determine the best cancer treatments and providers, and as a result, how to best manage their cancer benefits, the Northeast Business Group on Health said in the report.

The cost of cancer care continues to grow. Cancer treatment accounts for 12% of total medical costs for U.S. employers, but only 1% of the total claims, New York-based NEBGH said.

Employers spent $246 billion in total cancer-related costs in 2010, the report said.

“The high cost of cancer care is a big concern for employers, but even before addressing those costs, they want to understand what, exactly, it is they are purchasing,” Laurel Pickering, president and CEO of NEBGH, said in a statement announcing the report.

NEGBH found that employers face gaps in understanding the efficacy of cancer treatments, variations in chemotherapy cost depending on site of care, outcomes at cancer centers of excellence compared with local hospitals, and the types of support programs most helpful for employees.

Employers, health plans and other stakeholders can work together “to improve outcomes-based cancer data so that employers can better understand the impact of care on their employee populations, design value-based purchasing strategies informed by that data, and use value-based benefit design to steer employees into high-performing networks of providers where available,” according to the statement.

“Employers need clear guidelines and outcomes data to assess cancer care quality and value, and they also need resources for providing guidance and support to employees with a cancer diagnosis or a diagnosis in their family. Fear is a huge factor, and benefits managers want to be better equipped to deal with the emotional toll and the myriad of confusing treatment options, disability issues and financial ramifications associated with a cancer diagnosis,” Ms. Pickering said.

“Cancer is not one disease but hundreds,” Dr. Jeremy Nobel, executive director of NEBGH’s Solutions Center, said in the statement. “Adding to this complexity are substantial emotional, social and financial burdens incurred once a cancer diagnosis affects an employee or a family member. Employers need more education about aspects of cancer care quality and cost including commonly accepted standards of care, definitions of centers of excellence, advances in genomic testing and personalized medicine, and the large variations in the cost of oncology medicines and their administration. They also need better tools and innovative new approaches for assisting patients and their families on what we call the multifaceted cancer journey, including emotional, social, and financial concerns.”