Cancer patients more likely to face higher cost burdens than those with other chronic conditions

Research Activities October 2011, No. 374

A new study reveals that a higher proportion of nonelderly patients with cancer face a high burden of treatment costs (13.4 percent) than those with other chronic conditions (9.7 percent) and those without chronic conditions (4.4 percent). This is a problem, because high out-of-pocket health care costs can deter patients with cancer from seeking care and may affect treatment costs, notes Didem S.M. Bernard, Ph.D., of the Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research (AHRQ). She and colleagues analyzed data on 4,243 persons being treated for cancer and 148,971 persons not receiving cancer treatment. The data was gathered between 2001 and 2008 by AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

Among patients with cancer, those who were more likely to have higher out-of-pocket burdens included those with private non-group insurance, age 55 to 64 years, blacks, those who never married or are widowed, those with one or no children, the unemployed or those with lower income, those with less education, those living in a nonmetropolitan statistical area, and individuals with other chronic conditions.

The services accounting for the largest share of out-of-pocket expenditures among the nonelderly patients with cancer were prescription drugs and ambulatory services (36 percent), hospitalizations (10 percent), and other services (19 percent). Although a detailed patient-physician discussion of cancer care costs may not be feasible, clinical oncologists may find it useful to be aware of the out-of-pocket burdens their patients face, note the researchers. They add that in the near future, for nonelderly adults with cancer, the temporary national high-risk pool and State-based health insurance exchanges are likely to lower out-of-pocket burdens, especially among the currently uninsured and those with non-group private insurance.

See "National estimates of out-of-pocket health care expenditure burdens among nonelderly adults with cancer: 2001 to 2008," by Dr. Bernard, Stacy L. Farr, and Zhengyi Fang in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2011 (Epub ahead of print). Reprints (AHRQ Pub. No. 11-R058) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.

Page last reviewed October 2011
Internet Citation: Cancer patients more likely to face higher cost burdens than those with other chronic conditions: Research Activities October 2011, No. 374. October 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.