Cancer overtakes musculoskeletal disorders as costliest disease for major employers

Cancer has overtaken musculoskeletal disorders as the leading condition driving up health care costs for employers, according to a new survey.

The survey conducted by the Business Group on Health between May 31 and July 13 included 135 large employers covering 18.3 million people in the United States. Among the companies presented, 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 was the condition responsible for most healthcare costs, while 76% pointed to musculoskeletal disorders. In 2021, 80% declared cancer and 84% declared musculoskeletal disorders when identifying the most expensive disease in terms of health costs. More worryingly, 13% of employers said they had seen more late-stage cancers among their employees and 44% said they expected to see an increase in late-stage cancers in the future. This is likely because the pandemic has caused delays in care, according to a press release.

“So for the first time in the history of this survey, cancer has overtaken musculoskeletal disorders as the number one cost driver,” said Brenna Shebel, vice president of the Business Group on Health, during an interview. a press briefing on Tuesday. “Musculoskeletal always comes with costs, but…this year it’s quite a dramatic change.”

To address cancer costs, 50% of employers said they will provide access to Cancer Centers of Excellence in 2023 and 26% plan to provide access by 2025. A Center of Excellence is a program within a healthcare facility with expertise and resources in a certain area of ​​medicine. They have a reputation for delivering good results to patients. Companies not only provide centers of excellence, but also encourage employees to seek medical care through incentives such as travel reimbursement, Shebel said.

“The most common inducement or encouragement is reimbursement or payment for travel and accommodation expenses,” Shebel said. “So when an employee goes to a Center of Excellence, they have peace of mind that they don’t have to pay travel and accommodation costs.”

Of employers, 32% said they would cover genomic testing for cancer treatments in 2023 and 14% said they were considering it by 2025. Additionally, 11% said they would cover blood tests for early detection of several cancers in 2023, but the survey did not provide a number of those considering it.

Other conditions that drove up health insurance costs for employers this year were cardiovascular disease 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%.

Photo: CGToolbox, Getty Images

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