Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Study: Smaller Companies Bearing the Financial Burden of Employees with Cancer

Disability in Workers with Cancer Equals 20 Percent of Healthcare Spending

Each year, more than three million American workers are diagnosed with cancer, leading to high productivity losses that mainly affect smaller companies, reports a study in the December Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. 

Analyzing a national survey of medical spending, the researchers found that cancer in U.S. workers leads to productivity losses of more than 33 million disability days per year, amounting to $7.5 billion in lost productivity. Based on the average wages of the workers surveyed, disability costs due to cancer were equal to 20 percent of total healthcare spending.

Nearly 85 percent of the workers with cancer worked for smaller companies with fewer than 500 employees. These small-business employees had higher rates of other health problems as well, including high blood pressure, depression, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. They were also more likely to be uninsured.

Certain types of cancers, including women's cancers and melanoma, were associated with higher burdens of illness. For breast cancer, health care costs and hospitalizations were twice as high and disability days 55 percent higher than for other cancers.

The study is one of the first to document the economic impact of cancer in the U.S. workforce. The true cost in terms of lost productivity is likely even higher than the disability days measured in the study. The authors call for further efforts to reduce the burden of illness associated with cancer and its treatment—perhaps including supportive care interventions to reduce cancer-related disability.

Photo: freedigitalphotos.net

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