Cost-Sharing Sticker Shock for Many Cancer Patients

MedPage Today, August 11, 2017

The "financial toxicity" of cancer can adversely affect patients mental and physical state, particularly if they decide against recommended treatment, according to a research letter published online in JAMA Oncology.

This article first appeared August 10, 2017 on Medpage Today.

By Charles Bankhead

Out-of-pocket costs for cancer care that came in higher than expected had a significant association with patient-reported financial distress and increased reluctance to pay for recommended care, a survey of 300 patients showed.

Patients who reported "high or overwhelming" financial distress were almost five times as likely to say that the personal financial burden for their care exceeded expectations. On average, the cancer-related care consumed 11% of the patients' household income. The bite out of income increased to more than 30% among the individuals who reported feeling most burdened by finances. Two-thirds of patients who felt the most stress had private health insurance.

The findings emphasize how the "financial toxicity" of cancer can adversely affect patients mental and physical state, particularly if they decide against recommended treatment, Fumiko Chino, MD, of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and co-authors reported in a research letter published online in JAMA Oncology.

"I think these findings suggest that, more and more, patients are taking cost into consideration as they make decisions about their cancer care," senior author Yousuf Zafar, MD, also of Duke, told MedPage Today.

Noting that a majority of the patients in the study had private insurance, Zafar said the findings imply that healthcare providers "can't rely on a patient's insurance status to determine whether or not they can afford care."

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