Beneficiaries of Medicare who develop cancer and don’t have supplemental health insurance incur out-of-pocket expenditures for their treatments averaging one-quarter of their income with some paying as high as 63 percent, according to results of a survey-based study published November 23 in JAMA Oncology.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center say their study shows that a cancer diagnosis can be a serious financial hardship for many elderly and disabled who receive Medicare, with annual out-of-pocket costs ranging from $2,116 to $8,115, on top of what they pay to have health insurance. The research shows that hospitalizations are a major driver of out-of-pocket costs.
Cancer treatment contributes more to health care costs in the United States than treatment for any other disease, say the researchers.
“The spending associated with a new cancer diagnosis gets very high quickly, even if you have insurance,” says one of the study’s authors, Dr. Lauren Hersch Nicholas, an assistant professor in the department of health policy and management at the Bloomberg School. “The health shock can be followed by financial toxicity. In many cases, doctors can bring you back to health, but it can be tremendously expensive and a lot of treatments are given without a discussion of the costs or the financial consequences.”