If you develop cancer without supplemental insurance to help foot the rest of the bill, you may be in for bankruptcy.

According to a survey, in which the results were published in JAMA Oncology, most such people end up paying at the very least one-quarter of their income in order to receive the life-saving treatments.

Lauren Hersch Nicholas, PhD, MPPassistant professor in the department of health policy and management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated:

“The spending associated with a new cancer diagnosis gets very high quickly, even if you have insurance. 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.”

And even though Medicare pays for 80% of the costs associated with cancer, the medication required to nurse someone back to health can be astronomical. In many cases, patients are expected to pay $1000 for each hospital visit, and often times they don’t have an out of pocket maximum. This means depending on how ill they get, they could be looking at spending $10,000 pretty quickly.

Data was reviewed for this study by Nicholas and Amol K. Narang, MD, an instructor in the Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and member of the Kimmel Cancer Center, who looked over the records of 18,000 individuals who received Medicare between 2002 and 2012. Within this study, 1409 people were diagnosed with cancer and thus responsible for the cost.

Narang found that those without any kind of supplemental insurance were paying upwards of $8,000 per year in order to help them potentially heal from a cancer diagnosis.

He added:

“Cancer costs are high, and a significant segment of our seniors who don’t have adequate insurance coverage can be hit hard by this. In addition to efforts aimed at lowering cancer costs, we need to think about how to offer our seniors better insurance coverage.”

He states that a possible solution would be to cap the amount that people would need to pay out-of-pocket. Doctors can also help by trying to limit expensive hospitalizations with better outpatient management of symptoms and side effects.


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