Aug 24, 2022 - Health

Cancer top driver of employer health costs

A scientist looks through a microscope.

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/Cancer Research UK

Cancer care has become the top driver of large employers' health care costs due to an increase in late-stage diagnoses, according to a new survey from the Business Group on Health.

Why it matters: It's one of the early signs of how deferred care during the pandemic is resulting in more complex and resource-intensive cases.

Driving the news: After actual health costs stayed flat from 2019 to 2020, employers saw a median 2021 increase of 8.2%.

  • In the survey of 135 large employers across varied sectors who cover more than 18 million people in the U.S., 13% of companies said they have already seen more late-stage cancers.
  • Another 44% said they anticipate seeing an increase in the future because of those pandemic-related delays.
  • Musculoskeletal conditions and cardiovascular disease are also among the top cost drivers.

Meanwhile, employers indicated the leading health-related impact of the pandemic is long-term mental health concerns among their workforce, with about 43% already observing the trend and another 39% anticipating such increases.

What's next: Despite the increased costs, employers are reluctant to shift costs to employees in the short-term and are instead looking at delivery system reforms such as advanced primary care and the use of centers of excellence to curb costs.

Go deeper: How COVID reshaped cancer care

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