Over 1.5 million Canadians are living with and beyond cancer up to 25 years after a cancer diagnosis, per the Canadian Cancer Society. Working-age Canadians account for more than one-third of all new cancer cases in men and more than 40% of new cases among women. Cancer is a growing issue for workplaces, taking its toll on the physical, mental and financial health of plan members as well as sustainability of health and disability benefits plans. Using their own recent research, Allan Smofsky, Principal Strategist at Smofsky Strategic Planning, and Chris Bonnett, Principal Consultant at H3 Consulting, focused on drug plan spending and long-term disability in the webcast Cancer in the Workplace: Impacts on Benefits and Practical Considerations for Plan Sponsors recorded on June 15, 2023. Following are three plan sponsor considerations on cancer prevention, working during treatment and integrating benefits plans.

Cancer ranks high in drug plan spending, mental health and long-term disability claims.

About 30% of cancer patients have diagnosed depression or anxiety; another 15-20% have a “clinically relevant” mental health condition, Bonnett said. These statistics could motivate workplace stakeholders to help members prevent cancer. Employers and unions can collaboratively promote public health screening programs, such as provincial cancer screening programs, at no added cost.

Recognize “stay at work.”  

“Cancer is increasingly a disease that is chronic, episodic, and much less often is it fatal. It affects people of working age,” Bonnett said. Following a diagnosis or treatment of cancer, people often express a desire to work for a variety of reasons, including to financially support themselves and their family, a sense of identity/purpose and to maintain social connections. Workplace policies and practices haven’t kept up with plan members’ ability to remain productive. Plan sponsors could consider reviewing their accommodation practices, especially flexible or reduced scheduling, Bonnett and Smofsky said. In addition, because people who can be productive wouldn’t qualify as fully disabled, disability benefits plans need a mechanism to qualify for partial or residual disability benefits, Bonnett and Smofsky suggested.

Resource: iCanWork is a ten-step process for health care providers or vocational service providers to assist cancer survivors with determining their readiness to go back to or remain at work.

Integrate benefit plans.

Amidst a rapidly growing array of health services offered to workplaces, plan sponsors are providing these services and want to improve plan member health. However, plan members may have difficulty accessing these types of services, Bonnett and and Smofsky suggested. Consider integrating any health services targeted at comorbidities (e.g., mental health, cardiovascular disease, disease management, occupational therapy) to guide plan members. Vendors and advisors could collaborate to help plan members navigate these services.

Learn more.

Tune in to the webcast recording to learn more about the following:

  • The personal financial burden of cancer
  • Preventive lifestyle changes
  • Plan sponsor role in decisions to cover new drugs approved by Health Canada but before provincial coverage takes effect
  • Increasing disease management utilization
  • Collaboration opportunities for plan sponsors, vendors and advisors.

Developed by International Foundation Information Center staff. This does not constitute legal advice. Please consult your plan professionals for legal advice.

Jenny Gartman, CEBS

Manager, Reference/Research Services at the International Foundation Favorite Foundation Member Service: Personalized Research Service Benefits Topics That Interest Her Most: Mental health and retirement security Personal Insight: Jenny likes spending time with family, knitting, reading memoirs and going for walks around the neighborhood.

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