Are Unum (NYSE:UNM) analysts finding falling long-term disability (LTD) return-to-work rates for women with breast cancer because of random fluctuations in data, changes in the severity of the challenges facing LTD claimants who are fighting breast cancer, or resistance from employers?
Breast cancer is in the news this month because nonprofit groups have worked to make October National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Unum has contributed to discussions about the impact of breast cancer by looking at its own breast-cancer claims data.
In some cases, breast cancer can affect men as well as women. About 1 percent of the U.S. residents who develop cancer in a typical year are men, according to the National Cancer Institute. But about 99 percent of the people who get breast cancer are women.
The Unum analysts have found that cancer accounts for about 15 percent of the company’s LTD claims and that breast cancer accounts for about 22 percent of the LTD cancer claims.
When the Unum analysts sifted their short-term disability (STD) claims data, they found that the share who return to work increased to 64 percent in 2009, from about 29 percent in 2001.
Cheryl Greaney, a vice president, has suggested that the increase may be due to improvements in treatment outcomes and successful efforts to detect breast cancer early.
The widespread use of screening programs may also be leading to a shift of the mix of patients filing breast cancer-related STD claims. Maybe some of those claimants have relatively mild forms of cancer.