Employers and the Impact of COVID-19

In a time when health insurance coverage has become even more important, employers must strive to address new challenges in meeting the needs of their employees. As Burt Zweigenhaft, PhD, D.Litt, Founder, Association for Value-Based Cancer Care, said in his opening remarks, “COVID-19 is a 9/11 moment in healthcare. This is a new opportunity and a chance to restart.” Dr Zweigenhaft also noted that in the wake of the changes, the idea that government will be able to “solve everything” is not a likely outcome.

According to Karen van Caulil, PhD, President and CEO, Florida Alliance for Healthcare Value, one of the major complications that needs to be addressed is that “folks don’t understand their health benefits.… And when they find out that they have a cancer diagnosis, it is even more difficult to navigate through.” To that end, her coalition tried to get the message out to members that if they or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, they should reach out to learn about their benefits.

Dr Zweigenhaft said that although the Florida Alliance for Healthcare Value provides a “great example” of helping members to become engaged, too many others across the country are not working to such a high standard, and this situation needs to be addressed.

In general, the panelists thought that the benefits for patients with cancer are not as effective as they could be. In addition, the pandemic has caused additional barriers to care. For example, it is now even more difficult for patients to travel to distant cancer centers of excellence for their care.

All the panelists recognized that we are in a period of unprecedented uncertainty that warrants a rethinking of the current models.

Art Taft, Managing Director, Medworks, acknowledged that millions of people have been thrown into new situations. “I think change should be expected. And I actually think there’s a real opportunity for partnership in developing the change with employers,” he said.

“We’re going to probably see better management around the medical benefit,” predicted Randy Vogenberg, PhD, Board Chair, Employer-Provider Interface Council (EPIC) of HQF Institute for Integrated Healthcare.

“I think you’re going to see some change over cancer care….I think that’s where the great opportunity is,” said Murray Harber, Executive Director, Mississippi Business Group on Health.

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