Earlier this year, a study using LIVESTRONG data from 2012 was published in the health policy journal, Health Affairs. Authors spoke to the heavy financial burden of cancer care among survivors, including reported medical debt and bankruptcy. Now, we have analyzed similar LIVESTRONG data from 2015, which has revealed similar findings.
Over half of 1,067 survivors surveyed in 2015 reported having faced financial problems as a result of their cancer diagnosis and treatment. These problems included borrowing money and going into debt or otherwise not being able to cover the costs of their care. As in 2012, a majority of 2015 survey respondents worried about financial problems, and even experienced some level of distress as a result.
A new important finding from our 2015 data is that about two-thirds of survivors did not receive help for their reported financial issues. There were several common reasons for this, from not knowing help was available or where (and from whom) one should seek that to not wanting to bother anyone with such a request. Overwhelmingly, respondents reported not having a conversation with their provider about the costs of their care and its related financial burden.
With healthcare costs being a persistent problem for cancer survivors, it is critical that financial issues are a consistent part of the cancer care conversation. All stakeholders – policymakers, payers, providers, and patients – have a role to play in ensuring survivors and their families are aware of the risk and protected from financial burdens. Some steps have been taken by various actors to restructure pricing schemes for cancer care or, at least, make those more transparent. The outstanding challenge is for models or frameworks that propose solutions to squarely place patients themselves at the core of those decisions.
LIVESTRONG will keep pushing for policies and practices that lessen the financial impact of cancer on survivors. We also will continue providing services to individuals and their families in an effort to reduce the financial burden of care. After all, survivors have enough to handle with a cancer diagnosis alone.
LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation provides free, confidential one-on-one support for people affected by cancer with financial and insurance concerns, employment issues, clinical trials, treatment decision making, access to emotional support, and more. Call us at 1-855-220-7777 or complete an online form at www.livestrong.org/cancersupport to find out how we can help you today.