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Action Needed to Better Accommodate Cancer Survivors in U.S. Workforce

PFCD and WellPoint Highlight Opportunities for Policymakers and EmployersWashington, D.C. (September 17, 2014) – During a lifetime, one in two men and one and three women will be diagnosed with cancer. Medical advances allowing earlier diagnosis and less taxing treatment regimens have not only extended survival, but also enabled cancer patients to remain at work during treatment. These advances also mean a growing population of cancer survivors among the U.S. workforce. More than 400,000 working-age adults are newly diagnosed with cancer each year to join the nearly 14 million Americans with an existing history of cancer.The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) and WellPoint, Inc. released a white paper, “Facilitating Full Employment Opportunity for Employees with Cancer: A Call to Action,” and hosted a Capitol Hill briefing today, Cancer and Employment: Managing Work during a Health Crisis, highlighting the opportunities and challenges facing cancer survivors and employers. The event featured a distinguished panel to discuss the issues and implications for cancer survivors, employers, and policymakers and was part of an ongoing collaboration focused on raising important health care issues that proactively identify and advance solutions that address the crippling impact of chronic disease in our country.“As healthcare innovations advance and allow increasing numbers of cancer survivors to continue their valuable contributions to our economy, it is critical for employers and policy makers to address relevant issues, minimize obstacles and most importantly, commit their support to assist the growing population of U.S. workers fighting cancer,” said Ken Thorpe, PFCD Chairman. ”In our fight against the crippling impact of chronic disease, supporting patients and all those impacted by cancer and better educating employers and policy makers on implications and best practices will most certainly serve to improve health outcomes, save healthcare dollars, and positively impact our economy.”For working adults undergoing cancer treatment, staying on the job can provide a host of benefits: a sense of normalcy, distraction from treatment, social support, income, and insurance coverage. Studies also show that people who work through treatment have better health outcomes. Yet, people coping with cancer have higher unemployment rates and may have residual effects from treatment that require accommodations.Employers play a major role in helping cancer survivors stay gainfully employed during and after treatment, but many admit needing help navigating the many sensitive issues that arise. Understanding the personal, employment, and legal issues involved can be a challenge to navigate raising many policy implications.“People who have cancer are experiencing one of the most psychological, emotional and physical challenges of their lives,” said Dr. Jennifer Malin, WellPoint oncology medical director. “If we can stimulate that dialogue between the employee, the supervisor and human resources so they can work together to find solutions, employees will be more comfortable, have a better quality of life and more likely able to work to their full ability.”Featured panel speakers at today’s event included:

  • Kenneth Thorpe, PhD, Chairman, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease
  • Jennifer Malin, MD, PhD, Medical Director for Oncology Care Management, WellPoint
  • Rebecca Nellis, Vice President, Programs & Strategy, Cancer and Careers
  • Jill Houghton, Executive Director, US Business Leadership Network
  • Teri Herzog, Director, Global Benefits, Northrop Grumman Corporation 

For more information on PFCD and future events, please visit the Partnership to Fight Chronic DiseaseThe Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) is a national coalition of patients, providers, community organizations, business and labor groups, and health policy experts committed to raising awareness of the number one cause of death, disability, and rising health care costs in the U.S.: chronic disease. For a collection of statistics and commentary on the impact of chronic disease, please visit WellPoint, Inc.WellPoint is working to transform health care with trusted and caring solutions. Our health plan companies deliver quality products and services that give their members access to the care they need. With nearly 69 million people served by its affiliated companies, including more than 37 million enrolled in its family of health plans, WellPoint is one of nation’s leading health benefits companies. WellPoint companies serve members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; and as the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensees for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as the Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in 10 New York City metropolitan and surrounding counties and as the Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield licensee in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), and Wisconsin. In most of these service areas, WellPoint does business as Anthem Blue Cross, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia and Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield, or Empire Blue Cross (in the New York service areas). It also serves customers in other states through its Amerigroup, CareMore and UniCare subsidiaries. To find out more about WellPoint, go to