How Employers Can Improve Cancer Care, Costs: Report

January 7, 2019

In an effort to help purchasers improve value and outcomes while reducing waste in cancer care, the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions has released a new assessment on how health plans are currently managing cancer for both employees and families.

Although there has been a decrease in the number of cancer-related deaths since the early 1990s, the costs related to cancer have increased. In 2017, more than $147 billion were spent for cancer care in the United States. However, according to a press release, despite rising costs, employers and health plans have been “reticent to manage oncology care and are also faced with keeping pace with technology and treatment advances.”

"Nowhere in healthcare are employers facing a greater challenge to provide quality care at a reasonable cost than in cancer treatment and support," Michael Thompson, president and CEO, National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, said in a statement. "The fast pace of innovations in oncology has had a dramatic effect on employees and employers—giving rise to availability of, and demand for, health benefit-related support services that were virtually unheard of just a few years ago.”

For their report, Achieving Value in Cancer Care, the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions identified gaps in treatment and related benefits administration based on their annual eValue8 survey of health plans. These gaps provide a framework and recommendations for purchasers, health plans, and providers. It allows these groups to collaborate on the delivery of high-value patient-centered care.

According to the report findings, the eValue8 survey revealed that health plan performance for cancer care and support varies across health plans. Further, the report found that even though health plans identify cancer treatment as a critical issue, an essential need for plans to review and enhance the cancer patient's journey so that purchasers and patients have access to affordable and quality care still remains.

Based on the findings, the coalition provided recommendations for purchasers. The coalition recommends that purchasers should develop and communicate a patient-centered approach for cancer care benefits, and also review current benefits coverage to assess against coverage needs for standards of personalized, evidence-based cancer treatment. Then purchasers should assess how new treatment can be included that are reasonably priced. Further, the coalition recommends that purchasers change how care is paid for in order to speed the adoption of best prices and to also look at bundled payment options to address quality and cost. Finally, they recommend that purchasers review data sources and identify waste associated with higher costs and poorer outcomes related to inappropriate or low-value care, poor adherence, and high cost variation by site of care.

“Our opportunity to enhance cancer care delivery has never been greater as stakeholders collaborate toward a high value, high performing, highly responsive system of support on behalf of cancer patients and their families," Mr Thompson concluded.

Julie Gould


National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalition. National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions Releases Roadmap for Employers to Improve Cancer Care and Costs [press release]. Accessed January 7, 2019.

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