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New study shows patients paying more for cancer care

​ACS research finds out-of-pocket costs on the rise.

A new, large study released this week and led by researchers at the American Cancer Society and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center shows rising costs of cancer treatments led to increases in total costs of care, and when compounded with greater cost sharing, increased out-of-pocket (OOP) costs for privately insured patients under 65 years old. The study was released this week in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (JNCI).

The research is one of the first to comprehensively examine trends in the costs of cancer care for privately insured, non-elderly adults for the four most common cancers. Researchers discovered OOP costs went up more than 15 percent for all cancers to more than $6,000 for breast, colorectal, and lung cancer patients and $4,500 for patients with prostate cancer in 2016.

“Our study provides new evidence of the growing financial burden for nonelderly patients with cancer with private health insurance coverage,” said Dr. Robin Yabroff, ACS scientific vice president, health services research and senior author of the study. “Policy initiatives to mitigate financial hardship should consider cost containment as well as insurance reform, as most Americans will not be able to afford such an unexpected expense.”

For the study, the authors estimated trends in total and OOP costs around the first year of diagnosis for privately insured nonelderly adult cancer patients. Researchers constructed cohorts of 105,255 breast, 23,571 colorectal, 11,321 lung, and 59,197 prostate cancer patients diagnosed between 2009 and 2016 using claims data from the Health Care Cost Institute. They identified cancer-related surgery, intravenous (IV) systemic therapy, and radiation and calculated associated total and OOP costs (in 2020 US dollars).

“Unfortunately, as these data showcancer patients are increasingly facing a dual diagnosis of cancer and cancer-related financial toxicity,” said ACS CAN President Lisa Lacasse. “High-deductible health plans along with the proliferation of inadequate short-term plans often leave patients responsible for thousands of dollars out of pocket. These costs can then compound as many patients have to reduce their work hours or some even lose their jobs due to treatment-related side effects. We need Congress to work together to find solutions that help all cancer patients afford their care.”

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