Cancer overtook musculoskeletal conditions as the leading condition that is driving up employers’ healthcare costs, a new survey found.
The survey conducted by Business Group on Health
between May 31 and July 13 included 135 large employers covering 18.3 million people in the U.S. Of the companies featured, 73% have more than 10,000 employees. The annual survey has been conducted since 2005.
The report found that this year, 83% of employers said cancer is the condition responsible for the most healthcare costs, whereas 76% pointed to musculoskeletal conditions. In 2021, 80% said cancer and 84% said musculoskeletal conditions when identifying which condition was the most expensive in terms of healthcare costs. More worrying is that 13% of employers said they have seen more late-stage cancers among their employees and 44% said they anticipate seeing an increase in late-stage cancers in the future. This is likely because the pandemic created delays in care, according to a news release.
“So for the first time in the history of this survey, cancer has overtaken musculoskeletal conditions as the top cost driver,” said Brenna Shebel, vice president of Business Group on Health, during a press briefing on Tuesday. “Musculoskeletal is still driving costs, but … in this year, it’s quite a dramatic shift.”
To address cancer costs, 50% of employers said they will provide access to centers of excellence for cancer in 2023 and another 26% are considering giving access by 2025. A center of excellence is a program within a healthcare institution with expertise and resources on a certain area of medicine. They have a reputation of providing good patient outcomes. Not only are companies offering centers of excellence, they’re also encouraging employees to get care at them through incentives like travel reimbursements, Shebel said.
“The most common incentive or encouragement is reimbursing or paying for travel and accommodations,” Shebel said. “So when an employee does travel to a center of excellence, their mind is at ease, they don’t have to pay for travel and accommodations.”
Among employers, 32% said they will cover genomic testing for cancer treatments in 2023 and 14% said they are considering it by 2025. Additionally, 11% said they will cover multi-cancer early detection blood tests in 2023, but the survey did not provide a number of those considering it.
Other conditions pushing healthcare insurance costs higher for employers this year were cardiovascular conditions at 30%, diabetes at 28%, high-risk maternity/NICU at 18%, mental health at 17%, Covid-19 at 10%, gastroenterology at 7%, substance use disorders at 2% and HIV/AIDS at 1%.
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