A recent study reveals the devastating financial toll a cancer diagnosis can bring. Even for those with health insurance, the consequences can be financially devastating. The ongoing treatments can quickly deplete savings accounts and rack up credit card debt, eventually making it difficult to cover basic living expenses.
Cancer has always been an expensive diagnosis to treat, but recently several factors have made the costs more intense, prompting more patients to cut back on their medications, even delay treatment. Insurance companies are tightening prescription drug coverage and raising deductible costs. This means for some, paying thousands of dollars a year for a drug like the leukemia treatment Gleevec, which is a pill that is taken daily, sometimes for the rest of a person’s life.
The Affordable Care Act sets limits as to how much people can spend on healthcare each year. Cancer treatments often extend beyond a year and coverage does not always apply to the increasingly narrow network of doctors and hospitals that are considered ‘in-network.’
Duke Cancer Institute oncologist, Dr. Yousuf Zafar, who also studies financial distress among cancer patients, surveyed 300 adult, insured patients at the cancer institute. Nearly 40 percent reported a higher-than-expected financial burden, while 16 percent dealt with what he called ‘overwhelming financial distress.’
More than a quarter of that patient population said they did not take their medicines as prescribed, skipped doses and took smaller amounts than prescribed to save on costs. Some did not even get their prescriptions filled.
Additional research found that cancer patients are more than twice as likely as those without the diagnosis to file for bankruptcy.
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