HealthDay News — According to a study published in JAMA Oncology, medical bills for older US cancer patients can cost 25% of their income or more if they have Medicare without supplemental insurance.

Amol Narang, MD, and Lauren Hersch Nicholas, PhD, of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues examined data from 1409 Medicare patients diagnosed with cancer between 2002 and 2012.

The researchers found that those without supplemental health insurance had out-of-pocket costs that averaged one-quarter of their income. But these costs were as high as 63.1% of income in 10% of cases. 

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The actual annual out-of-pocket costs ranged from $2116 to $8115. Hospitalizations accounted for 12% to 46% of out-of-pocket cancer spending, depending on whether and what type of supplemental insurance a patient had. Medicare covers 80% of outpatient health costs and has co-pays of $1000 for each hospital visit, the researchers noted.

“The health shock can be followed by financial toxicity,” Nicholas said in a Hopkins news release. “A lot of treatments are given without a discussion of the costs or the financial consequences.”


Narang AK, Nicholas LH. “Out-of-Pocket Spending and Financial Burden Among Medicare Beneficiaries With Cancer.” JAMA Oncol. November 23, 2016. doi:10.1001/ jamaoncol.2016.4865. [Epub ahead of print]

de Souza JA, Conti RM. “Mitigating Financial Toxicity Among US Patients With Cancer.” JAMA Oncol. November 23, 2016. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2016.4850. [Epub ahead of print]

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