The Cost of Cancer

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

APRIL 21, 2017

This is a very complicated and important topic. As we all know, cancer costs a lot. Even with the very best insurance, there are plenty of out of pocket expenses: co-pays and deductibles and uncovered services. Then there are the parallel costs of missing work and maybe having a reduced income, parking, gas, more childcare or other household help, etc. It can be horrifying and terrifying to add it up.

As our country struggles with health care policy and coverage, it is vital that the picture be expanded beyond the big expense of insurance premiums. Yes, they can be high, but that is only the beginning. There is attention paid to the exorbitant costs of some new drugs, especially cancer drugs, but no one mentions the smaller items like wigs or breast prostheses that are not covered by some insurances.

This is a very good and clear article from Medscape that lays out the issues in ways we can all understand.

Insurance and Cancer: Look at OOP, Not Just Premiums

Alicia Ault
April 13, 2017
WASHINGTON — For patients with cancer, rising deductibles, copays, and other out-of-pocket costs are as important as — if not more important than — increasing premium prices, said officials from the American Cancer Society (ACS) Cancer Action Network (CAN) at its annual policy meeting here.
A new study issued by ACS CAN shows that Americans spent $4 billion out of pocket for cancer treatments in 2014, amounting to 4% of the total $88 billion spent on cancer-related healthcare that year.
"People who haven't been through this would be startled at the overall cost of what they have to bear when they get cancer — I don't think they can imagine," Chris Hansen, ACS CAN president, told Medscape Medical News.
The report finds that lower insurance premiums might not ultimately be cost-saving for patients with cancer because they often have higher cost-sharing. "If people just focus on the premiums, they're telling such a very small part of the story," Hansen told Medscape Medical News.
"Affordability is not just premiums," agreed Jennifer Singleterry, ACS CAN senior policy analyst. "It's actually being able to afford the care once you're on the plan," she told Medscape Medical News.
ACS CAN issued the report in part to influence the somewhat-stalled debate over whether to repeal, replace, or tweak the Affordable Care Act. "This report makes clear the importance of insurance coverage, but also offers insight into the extent that even insured patients struggle to afford treatment," said Hansen in a statement.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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