Cancer Continuum of Care

Cancer favors no economic class. The disease afflicts people who work in restaurants, factories, retail establishments, office suites, etc. For many employers, cancer is one of the most costly conditions. Consider the full gamut of workplace issues that a cancer diagnosis brings, some of which are:

Overall Direct Costs

  • In a typical commercial population, only 0.68% of members have claims for cancer in a year, yet these claims account for about 10% of all medical costs.1
  • Spending on cancer has increased by $63 billion from 1990 to 2008.2
  • The total cost of cancer in 2009 in the U.S. was $216.6 billion. This figure comprises direct medical costs of $86.6 billion and indirect mortality costs of $130 billion.3
  • The total estimated lost productivity cost to employers for all full-time employed caregivers is approximately $33.6 billion.
  • Cancer is the leading cause of long-term disability for the ninth consecutive year, accounting for 11.8% of all claims.

Indirect Costs

  • Absenteeism — Employees with cancer often have high rates of absenteeism in the course of their treatment (e.g., hospital visits for chemotherapy and lab visits).
  • Presenteeism — Treatment side effects may compromise an employee's ability to perform his or her normal day-to-day duties.
  • Reduced Productivity — Among working caregivers, 52% of women and 34% of men experienced workday interruptions as a result of caregiving.
  • Potential loss of intellectual capital.

If unaddressed, cancer costs could increase significantly in the coming years, thus, making cancer a problem that employers cannot afford to ignore.

Employers' Role

Employers must work across the benefits lifecycle to address the many challenges that cancer brings to the workplace.

  • Prevention — Employers should encourage utilization of covered preventive services, including smoking-cessation programs, and create a smoke-free workplace environment.
  • Screening — Employers should address genetic testing and counseling when appropriate and provide employees with information on how they can use these services.
  • Treatment — Employers should cover their employees' minimal out-of-pocket costs for any surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, behavioral health and care focused on pain and symptom management as needed.
  • Recovery, relapse and/or hospice — Employers should implement effective return-to-work programs and flexibility for continued therapy, including end-of-life care and provide comprehensive, affordable hospice benefits.

1 National Alliance for Caregiving, AARP. Caregiving in the U.S. 2009. Accessed October 18, 2010.
2 Elkin EB, Bach PB. Cancer's next frontier: Addressing high and increasing costs. JAMA. 2010;303(11):1086-7.
3 American Cancer Society. Economic impact of cancer. Accessed July 17, 2014.