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High Costs Are Threatening Cancer Care

by Dr. Sharon Orrange on September 23, 2014 at 11:09 am

Many folks with cancer in the United States have a chemotherapy option their insurance won’t pay for, or a copayment they can’t afford. The American Society of Clinical Oncology released a report in 2014 outlining the threat of the high cost of treatment to cancer care in America.

What’s going on here?

  • Cancer drugs are expensive, and Medicare reimbursement levels for them are lower.
  • Costs are rising. The annual cost of cancer care in the U.S. is projected to rise from $104 billion in 2006 to more than $173 billion in 2020.
  • Shockingly, the annual excess economic burden of survivorship among recently diagnosed cancer survivors is more than $16,000 per survivor, and among those previously diagnosed, it is more than $4000 per year. This is what our folks are paying, out of their pocket, to survive cancer.
  • One quarter of personal bankruptcies are precipitated by a healthcare crisis and being diagnosed with cancer is a common one.
  • The upside is we have better drugs for cancer so patients are living longer, the downside is that it comes at a cost.
  • Just one of many examples is Gleevec (imatinib) a medication used for chronic myelogenous leukemia. Paying 20% of a $10,000 drug bill is too much for many patients. Gleevec is a well tolerated pill which works very well, but there are patients who aren’t taking it due to cost, or taking it every other day to save money. That’s not right.
  • Many patients who can’t afford their cancer medications report being afraid to talk to their doctor about high out of pocket costs. Don’t be, see if we can help you.
  • Cancer doctors (oncologists) are also having a hard time because if they are giving injections of high-cost drugs in their offices they are seeing significant delays in reimbursement which is difficult on the cash flow of the practice.

Let’s hope it gets better.

Dr O.

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