The Financial Impact of Chemotherapy and Medical Costs on the Cancer Patient
Last updated: August 2022
Cancer is one of the most expensive medical conditions to treat. Multiple types of treatment including surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy administration, and hospitalization may be necessary. Compared to prior years, more expensive chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and other new types of treatment are now available.
Higher costs for care and insurance
As both my husband and I are cancer survivors, we are paying higher health insurance premiums to ensure that we have adequate coverage. We are also paying more for copayments, deductibles, and coinsurance.
A shocking insurance statement
I was shocked when I reviewed a recent medical insurance statement from my husband’s chemotherapy administration that revealed a charge of $67,000 for his single chemotherapy treatment. Fortunately, due to our higher level of supplemental insurance coverage the charge was covered.
The financial impact of cancer may be due to out-of-pocket costs when you pay for your medical care that are not covered by your health insurance. These may include:
- Copayments-The amount you pay for each healthcare service such as a prescription or doctor appointment. This amount has been significant for our medications and has impacted our monthly budget.
- Deductible- The amount you pay for your medical care before your health insurance plan begins to pay.
- Coinsurance- The percentage of costs you pay for a service that your insurance covers after you have paid your deductible.
Multiple factors affect the financial impact
There are other factors that may affect the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis, including your monthly income, amount of debt, your assets, how cancer and its treatment affect your ability to work, whether you have health and disability insurance and what that covers. Because of the expense of cancer care, patients may experience a loss of income and assets, debt and trouble paying for housing, food, and bills.
During my blood cancer treatment, I experienced incapacitating fatigue and was unable to work. Fortunately, my organization provided disability insurance which covered a portion of my salary.
Several studies of cancer survivors have reported that survivors have used savings or borrowed money to pay for their medical care. It has been reported that a consequence of this financial burden for cancer patients may result in not filling prescription or skipping doses. Reduced adherence to cancer medications can certainly affect patient outcome.
How can this financial impact be reduced?
Assess Risk Factors for Financial impact at diagnosis-
A newly diagnosed cancer patient should meet with a financial navigator who can explain about health insurance plans and cost saving methods for treatments that the patient may be eligible. Speak with your healthcare provider about how to contact.
Hospitals posting their prices so that healthcare professionals and patients know the costs when making decisions about treatments.
Explore options to help with financial issues:
- Medical coverage- Explore Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act
- Income Sources- Social security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income if qualified.
- Life Insurance- Explore if your policy has a source of cash as a loan, or if you can sell your policy for a portion of its value.
- Retirement plan- speak with your Human Resource contact as plan may be a source of cash or loan.
Advocacy is needed
A cancer diagnosis on its own is devastating. Financial concerns need to be addressed. I am hopeful that the government can explore supportive strategies to provide strategies and examine the ever increasing cost of treatments for the cancer patient.
How has blood cancer impacted you financially? (select all that apply)
What blood cancer were you diagnosed with?
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