Representing one of the fastest growing segments of healthcare spending, the cost of cancer care in the United States continues to rise at an unprecedented rate.
To account for the rise in the cost of care, insurance companies are starting to shift more of the financial burden to patients in the form of higher co-pays, deductibles and premiums.
Unfortunately, many of these patients do not have the resources to cover the financial burdens placed upon them once medical bills begin arriving.
Does this financial hardship contribute to a patient's ability to recover from cancer? New studies have begun to measure the impact of financial hardship on cancer recovery.
Financial Hardship and A Difficult Recovery Go Hand-In-Hand
A new study by the Association of Oncology Social Work shows that over 50% of cancer patients surveyed reported that the costs related to cancer negatively impacted their ability to focus on their recovery.
Other key findings from the study include:
68% reported financial hardship due to medical bills
46% had to cut back on living expenses to pay for their treatment
40% said that they depleted their savings
30% reported having to deal with bill collectors
66% of patients who faced major financial challenges report suffering from depression/anxiety
Reducing the Impact of Financial Toxicity
The oncology community recognizes the impact financial toxicity has on patients and has formulated some strategies to address the problem:
- Improve Cost Transparency. By discussing the cost of various treatments with patients before they are prescribed, doctors and patients can take a bigger-picture look at the overall care strategy.
- Improve Access to Financial Assistance. When the cost of treatment is discussed in early stages of the process, there is more opportunity to apply for financial assistance.
- Measure Financial Burden in Real Time. The financial burden is rarely accounted for in a clinical setting. However, by measuring this throughout the entire process doctors may be able to align patients with appropriate resources before the strain starts to have a negative impact on care.
- Provide Access to Financial Planners. While discussing finances during clinical visits is a crucial part of treatment, doctors are not financial planners and will be unable to advise patients on some matters. It's important for oncology practices to have financial planners they can connect patients with.