As if surviving cancer isn’t enough of a challenge, one-third of cancer survivors end up in debt and 3 percent find themselves seeking the protection of bankruptcy, according to a new study by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, Portland, Oregon. The 2012 survey included data from 4,719 cancer survivors aged 18 to 64 years. In more than half of the cases, debt levels were more than $10,000.
In the United States, the average cost of new cancer therapies is now somewhere between $10,000 and $60,000 per month — an increase of two to three times more than other healthcare expense increases over recent years. Youth, income level and type of insurance affect the financial vulnerability of cancer patients, with lower income people affected most. In a previous study, bankruptcy rates were found to be twice as high for those who had survived cancer than the general population.
“Even with good health insurance, co-pays and deductibles create a huge financial burden,” said Kevin Bambury, attorney, Jeffrey Freedman Attorneys at Law, PLLC. “The greatest cost is usually drugs, but other treatments such as surgery, hospitalizations, radiation treatments and tests can also have great impact on the family budget.”
Cancer patients and their spouses often lose income because they cannot work full-time throughout the illness. Taking extended leave time off of work can also affect insurance coverage.
“Most treatment facilities have counselors or social workers on staff who can help families connect with local resources to help them survive the financial consequences of this disease,” Bambury said. “Being in debt causes a lot of stress, which negatively affects people who are ill. It is almost as important to have help with finances as it is to have treatment for the disease.”