Benchmarks for value in cancer care: An analysis of a large commercial population

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Oncology Practice








Purpose: Cancer costs are increasing at an unprecedented rate. Key cost drivers include chemotherapy, hospital admissions/emergency room visits, and aggressive end-of-life care. We sought to evaluate these costs in a commercial payer population in collaboration with consultants from Milliman. Patients and Methods: We used a retrospective analysis of Medstat 2007 to evaluate chemotherapy costs and use. Included patients had a cancer diagnosis; received chemotherapy during the evaluation period; had at least 1 day of coverage between January 1 and December 31, 2007 (medical and prescription coverage); was younger than age 70, and had active employment or was the spouse of an active employee. Costs are allowed amounts and are trended until 2009. Admission rates and emergency room visits are reported. Hospice use and chemotherapy during the last 14 and 30 days of life were also evaluated. Results: In this commercial population of 14 million patients, 0.68% had claims for a cancer diagnosis; approximately 22% of those received chemotherapy during the study time period. Patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy averaged $111,000 per year in total medical and pharmacy costs. The average hospitalization rate for any reason was 1 admission/yr. Approximately 40% (or 0.4 admits/year) were identified as being chemotherapy related. Of the 3.5% of patients who died in the hospital, 51% received chemotherapy within 30 days of death. Conclusion: Understanding the costs of cancer care offers opportunities to formulate a strategic plan to control cancer costs and maintain quality care. Comprehensive cancer solutions to address the full spectrum of care will facilitate improved quality and patient outcomes. Copyright © 2011 by American Society of Clinical Oncology.