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The Cost of Cancer Treatment

February 28, 2022

The implications of a cancer diagnosis can be devastating. It can change one’s way of life and how one performs daily living activities and takes an emotional toll on the client. However, the financial burden of cancer treatment is devastating in its own right. This never fails to be a source of extreme anxiety and stress in patients who happen to get diagnosed with this condition. 

Unfortunately, the cost of cancer treatment is a troublesome issue for many because it’s multi-faceted. Survival rates continue to rise, but so does the price of life-saving cancer treatments. Many Americans struggle with cancer’s physical and emotional effects and the increasing out-of-pocket costs. Even worse — many people are hopeless of ever finding a cure. 

The Economic Impact of Cancer

You should consider cancer’s impact on society to gain perspective on some of the potentially devastating expenses of a cancer diagnosis. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimated that the medical costs associated with cancer in the United States were just over 80 billion dollars. Most of these costs consist of hospital or doctor office visits, while another fraction of the cost is attributed to inpatient hospital stays. 

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States. The economic impact of cancer has continued to remain high, with many patients operating without health insurance. 

Cancer Treatment Costs

The average cost of cancer treatment varies from case to case, but they are typically the highest among preventable cancers, including lung, colorectal, breast, and mesothelioma. A common theme is the expensive price tag of surgeries, radiation therapies, and chemotherapy. Historically, the costs of various mesothelioma drugs came to around $40,000. Surgical procedures to remove tumors have a similar cost. In a previous radiation therapy study for cancer patients on Medicare, the median cost averaged approximately $9,000.

The Factors of Cancer Expenses

The cost to help one manage their health during cancer is contingent on many factors. The most common costs to consider include the type of treatment one receives, the cost of medical treatment, the location and length of the treatment period, health insurance, and supplemental insurance. 

First, the doctor appointments will account for a good chunk of expenses. This is because insurance providers require a copayment for each visit. You will also have to pay for necessary laboratory tests to devise a care plan, such as a CBC or a urinalysis. 

Another considerable portion of one’s cancer expenses will come from the actual cost of medical treatment itself. Infusions of chemotherapy or radiation can prove to be very expensive and get into the thousands of dollars. The longer one has to stay on this kind of therapy. The more expensive the treatment will be.

Of course, treatment will be taking place in a hospital, and travel expenses are also incorporated into the cost. The subsidiaries of these expenses include gas, parking, taxis, tolls, gas, and other associate fares. 

There will also be the expenses of maintaining the household to adapt to treatment and potential employment and the financial burden of cancer.

The Financial Toll of Cancer Care

Some chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments are three times the average monthly income; many individuals are left to cover these expenses out-of-pocket. Treatment is just one portion of cancer costs. Many patients say that travel related to cancer treatment, lost wages, home care, and caregiving took a significant financial toll. Many patients struggle with hardships due to these out-of-pocket cancer costs, including difficulty paying bills, buying food, avoiding doctor or follow-up oncology appointments, lowering prescription doses, skipping recommended treatment options, and even bankruptcy. 

Who Is Most Affected?

Low-income families, uninsured or underinsured individuals, and blue-collar workers facing medical bills four times their annual salaries can’t afford the rising costs of cancer treatment. Cancer rates are 20% higher among impoverished communities, and the largest gaps in morbidity rates occur in lung, cervical, colorectal, and liver cancers. Additionally, 8 of the 10 states with the highest poverty rates rank in the top 10 for cancer deaths. 

With health insurance premiums and copays rising, many people struggle to pay out-of-pocket costs or can’t reach their deductibles before insurance coverage begins. Additionally, millions of Americans still remain uninsured or underinsured. Insured cancer patients spend more out-of-pocket costs than anticipated and many individuals remain uninsured because coverage is too high. 

Blue-collar jobs represent a small percentage of the U.S. labor force, and workers are less likely to have employer-based insurance coverage. Individuals in the top blue-collar jobs get paid less annually than it costs for some cancer drugs monthly. 

Blue-collar workers are at a higher risk of being exposed to carcinogens at work. Mesothelioma disproportionally affects blue-collar workers because it’s a rare form of cancer caused by exposure to the asbestos carcinogen — sometimes developing decades later. Therefore, many of these patients are diagnosed after retiring from blue-collar jobs, forcing them to pay significant out-of-pocket costs on fixed incomes. Blue-collar jobs also put workers at higher risk of occupational cancers by being exposed to various carcinogens in the workplace. 

Value-Based Care

When it comes to the cost of medical treatment options, value-based healthcare shows its tremendous value. This value-based care is a framework that determines the payment of physicians, hospitals, and healthcare providers. It’s a direct relationship in which they are paid based on the patient’s health outcome. Essentially, physicians are rewarded for patients improving their health with more pay. While there’s no permanent cure for cancer, reducing the effects of chronic disease and creating a situation where patients can live healthier lives reflect well on them.

This is a vastly different approach from frameworks in which healthcare services are paid solely based on what they can provide. This can circumvent cancer treatment cost a great deal. With a value-based healthcare system, patients will have lower costs and better outcomes, and providers are motivated to do everything to improve the client’s health outcomes. In addition, this lessens the burden that cancer costs have on society as a whole. 

About Horizon Oncology

Horizon Oncology ensures that patients are our number one priority. Our expert providers deliver high-quality, compassionate care in a delicate atmosphere of trust and concern. We offer a comprehensive package of cancer services that are personalized to meet the individual needs of our patients and their families. Contact us to learn more or schedule an appointment.