Employers Say Cancer Care Is Priority, but Services Lacking

Workers often lack access to second opinions, nonclinical support services

By Stephen Miller, CEBS May 3, 2016
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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.

“Employee benefits professionals often serve as the gateway to accessing cancer care during a tumultuous time for employees and families,” said Laurel Pickering, president and CEO of NEBGH, based in New York City. “Employers are invested in the well-being of their employees, and they want to be confident they’re steering people to trusted providers and institutions based on reliable information about outcomes and adherence to quality measures. Employers also have an important role to play by leveraging their purchasing power with health plans, hospitals and third parties to help accelerate greater transparency in quality, outcomes and pricing.”

The report includes a cancer care glossary, cancer resource list and cancer care checklist, resources for organizations developed by NEBGH in response to the concerns and questions raised by employers.

Few Second Opinions

NEBGH conducted a benchmarking survey with self-insured employers representing 1.2 million covered employees. Among the findings:

  • About half of employers reported they do not offer third-party second-opinion services—an area highlighted by NEBGH because of data showing that second opinions can often reveal an initial misdiagnosis or point to a different treatment path with lower costs and better outcomes.
  • Less than half of survey respondents said they have a network of high-performing oncology providers in place.
  • Employees often face variations and gaps in the nonclinical support services available to them, such as treatment navigation, emotional counseling and financial planning services.

“Another major gap highlighted in our work is the lack of accessible, organized and systematic communications efforts directed to employees,” said Jeremy Nobel, M.D., executive director of NEBGH’s solutions center, which conducted the research. “Employers are investing a lot in trying to provide the best cancer care and support possible for their employees, and effective communications are key in making sure employees are aware of and can access these programs.”

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow me on Twitter.

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