Cancer sucks! There is nothing good that comes from this awful disease.
In fact, the word “cancer” has become all too familiar in my family as we have been hit with the disease more than once. And while you try to prepare yourself the best way you know how, it still knocks you down physically and emotionally.
Many of my family members have been lucky. Their employers have been extremely supportive of their need to take time off for treatment and have generous benefit plans that cover a significant portion of treatment costs.
Costs of Cancer
There is no denying that the cost of caring for cancer patients is rising and will continue to rise.
The Alliance recently took a high-level look at our claims data as part of a study to identify benefit spending by care area. A quick dive into the data showed that more than 200 patients annually received cancer care treatment.
Cancer patient claims cost more than $7 million in repriced dollars in medical spend, rounding out to about $35,000 per patient per year, according to our review.
It’s not easy to talk about the cost of cancer
As an employer, it can be difficult to talk about the cost of cancer to your employees. A cancer diagnosis is very personal, yet for many patients, the cost of cancer may be as devastating as the disease.
One in three cancer patients who have insurance will experience debt or bankruptcy.
Cancer’s combined impact adds up for both employers and employees:
- More than 1 million new cancer cases were expected to be diagnosed in 2015.
- Direct medical costs for cancer in the U.S. in 2011 were $88.7 billion and treatment costs rise every year.
- Cancer patients spend an estimated $2.3 billion in time on their care, including the time to travel to, wait for and receive inpatient and outpatient treatment in the initial phase of care.
- Cancer is the second leading cause of long-term disability and the sixth leading cause of short-term disability.
- A study of major employers found that patients with cancer cost five times as much to insure as patients without cancer ($16,000 vs. $3,000 in annual costs).
- As baby boomers age there is expected to be a 50 percent increase nationwide in the number of cancer patients between 2000 and 2020.
- There will be approximately 11,000 cancer deaths in Wisconsin this year and nearly 24,000 deaths in Illinois.
Attend Cancer in the Workplace – March 15
The Alliance is helping employers explore this complex topic by offering an Alliance Learning Circle solely focused on cancer.
Two industry experts will share their insights.
- Lynn Zonakis, former managing director of health strategy and resources for Delta Air Lines and now principal of The Zonakis Group, will discuss the approaches to cancer benefits that she used at Delta Air Lines.
- Lillie Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, administrative director at John Hopkins Breast Center will discuss their work on a web-based portal called Managing Cancer at Work – Why it’s Good Business to Invest in Better Cancer Management for your Employees. Shockney, a two-time breast cancer survivor, will share how the Johns Hopkins’ program made it possible for more employees with cancer to continue to work while receiving treatment.
Take a Look at Your Benefit Plan
The March 15 event will also help employers take a look at benefit plan design for cancer care. Our speakers will help you determine whether your plan needs revisions in these areas:
- Medical and pharmaceutical benefits
- Short-term disability
- Family medical leave
- Employee assistance programs
- Health and wellness program, including cancer screening for employees.
The event includes an overview of free resources available to share with your employees, including:
- Employee education on choosing the right doctor.
- Asking the right health care questions.
- Seeking supportive care and pain management.
- Learning more about advance care planning.
- Avoiding unnecessary care.
Our Cancer in the Workplace event will provide the information that employers need to manage cancer benefits and offer valuable support to employees.
- Sign-up to attend Cancer in the Workplace – Current Care Issues for Employers (March 15).
- Stay tuned for a recap of the Cancer in the Workplace event in our blog (March 22 and 24)
In addition to her work at The Alliance, Tierney is an active member on The Business Forum, previously serving on the board and acting as senior chair for the ATHENA committee. Tierney also participates in the Advertising Federation of Madison and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network of Madison.
Tierney earned her bachelor's degree of business administration from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh with an emphasis in information systems and a certification on the Project Management Body of Knowledge.
Read blog posts by Tierney.
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