Higher out-of-pocket costs may sway cancer patients' decisions, study says

Cancer patients who have health plans with high deductibles may approach treatment differently because of high out-of-pocket costs, a Dec. 22 Jama Network Open study found. 

The study of nearly 135,000 cancer patients found that a cancer diagnosis could result in average annual out-of-pocket costs upwards up $1,683 more than a patient without cancer, according to the study. 

Breast, colorectal and lung cancer patients had the highest increase in average annual out-of-pocket costs compared to those without cancer. Patients with breast cancer face an average of $1,683 in additional out-of-pocket costs per year; patients with colorectal cancer receive on average $1,420 in additional costs; and lung cancer patients can expect $467 in additional out-of-pocket costs annually. 

The study's authors claim that while more research is needed, the potential implications of growing high-deductible plan enrollment and cancer care costs mean more cancer patients may struggle with the financial side of receiving treatment. 

"For many individuals in the United States, economic decision-making and medical decision-making are deeply intertwined," the study said. "Financially vulnerable patients and their families continue to face painful decisions about whether to undergo high-cost cancer treatment or to delay or forego care."

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