Delivering compassion across the cancer continuum

Facing a cancer diagnosis can be devastating on its own, but it can be compounded when confronted with a complex and confusing health care system.

It’s estimated that nearly 2 million new cancer cases would be diagnosed in the U.S. this year.1 And, as a result, cancer is now the No. 1 driver of employer health care costs.2

The good news is, with the right strategy and carrier relationship, employers can design a health plan that aims to help manage those costs while still delivering a simpler experience designed to achieve better health outcomes for employees battling cancer.

Annual cost of cancer for employers and employees:

  • $13,800 in employer health care costs, per employee with cancer3
  • $208.9B in total employee and employer cancer-related medical costs4
  • $14.2B in employee out-of-pocket costs4
  • $4.9B in employee time costs (travel and care) 4

Support for every stage of the cancer journey

While no cancer journey is the same, offering different programs and benefits that span all the potential stages — from prevention and detection to treatment, management and end-of-life care — can help ensure employees and their families have access to the resources and support they need.

For employers looking to strike this balance of care and cost management, it may be helpful to consider the Cancer Support Program from UnitedHealthcare.

The Cancer Support Program helps support employees by aligning all aspects of their cancer journey, from diagnosis, treatment and survivorship to end-of-life care. It also encourages access to quality, evidence-based care that may lower costs for employers and employees. This is accomplished through individualized coaching and education, with access to experienced oncology nurses who can help reinforce the treatment plan employees receive from their doctors. The program currently assists 30,000 cancer patients annually.

“The UnitedHealthcare approach to cancer care focuses on supporting the patient throughout their entire journey. By helping to integrate the different touchpoints of care and addressing any gaps, we provide access to quality care and treatments that help lower costs.”

— Daniel O’Connor, National Commercial Product Director at UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual

Encouraging prevention and early diagnosis

When it comes to preventing cancer, there are many genetic, environmental and social determinants of health factors that may be out of a person’s control. However, there are some steps that may work to limit cancer risk factors and help foster early diagnoses. In fact, it’s predicted that 45% of the cancer deaths estimated to occur in 2023 could be prevented with lifestyle changes.5

With obesity on the rise in the U.S. — a risk factor for many chronic conditions, including cancer — lifestyle changes like eating healthier and becoming more physically active can make all the difference. Health services like Real Appeal® can help support and reward employees for developing healthier habits and achieving health goals.

Another way to mitigate the impact of cancer is to encourage employees to seek regular screenings to help enable early diagnosis and timely intervention. Employers can encourage these preventive activities by selecting a health plan that offers 100% coverage for network preventive cancer screenings, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and cervical exams which are available with most UnitedHealthcare plans.

The American Cancer Society attributes early detection to the steady decline in deaths from cancer — an estimated 3.8 million decline in deaths since 1990.5

Providing guidance and support during treatment

A cancer diagnosis can come with many complications, beyond the medical ones. Emotions are often at a high for newly diagnosed patients and their families, and information often comes at them fast as they struggle to understand next steps. Transitioning from a primary care physician to a team of oncologists, dealing with prior authorizations for care and pharmaceuticals and understanding what is covered and what isn’t are all situations an employee has to juggle as they start their journey.

But when a member is diagnosed with cancer, UnitedHealthcare is there to help guide them through their journey while helping them manage costs. For example, through the Cancer Support Program members have access to Centers of Excellence, which are specialized care programs that identify providers who specialize in a particular complex condition.

This program is designed to help cancer patients get the care they need when they need it — and to relieve some of the emotional and financial burden that can come at the onset of a diagnosis and throughout treatment.

If a member has UnitedHealthcare pharmacy benefits, additional support for medications is offered through Optum® Specialty Pharmacy and the Cancer Guidance Program.

Offering assistance through survivorship and end-of-life care

When an employee enters remission or progresses to the point of needing hospice care, they still need access to resources and support. UnitedHealthcare understands that the need for care doesn’t end when active treatment does and provides:

  • Guidance for monitoring disease recurrence, follow-up care and managing side effects
  • Social and emotional support to help address return-to-work challenges that can occur after completed treatment
  • Help with identifying end-of-life resources, including social workers, caregiver planning and palliative care
  • Bereavement support for caregivers and family members while the employee is in hospice

These are just some of the cancer resources and programs that can help employers and their employees mitigate the impact of a cancer diagnosis. The goal is to provide cancer patients with a single source for obtaining cancer information, support and guidance as they navigate a complex health care system.

When part of their health care plan, employees that access the Cancer Support Program resources provided by UnitedHealthcare may experience improved quality and coordination of care and lower out-of-pocket costs. Employers may also see financial savings as this approach to quality, evidence-based care may lead to lower overall costs and improved quality of life.

Cancer Support Program in action

A Cancer Support Program member journey

Joann is a 48-year-old single mother of 2. After a routine mammogram, she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. 

Download a PDF of a cancer patient’s journey

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