Acute and chronic economic hardships are the little recognized but all too common effects of cancer therapy, new research shows.
Mean annual medical expenditures are higher for male cancer survivors than for males without a history of cancer ($8091 vs $3094), according to a study published in the June 13 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. For female cancer survivors, costs were even higher ($8412 vs $5119).
In addition to out-of-pocket costs, men with a history of cancer lost an estimated $3700 in annual productivity, and women lost an estimated $4000, write Donatus U. Ekwueme, PhD, from the division of cancer prevention and control at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in Atlanta, and colleagues.
These average annual productivity losses compared unfavorably with the $2260 for cancer-free males and the $2703 for cancer-free females.
Employment disability accounted for about 75% of the productivity loss in male and female survivors.
“The economic data presented in this report investigating the economic consequences of surviving cancer highlight the need to develop comprehensive intervention programs to improve the quality of the cancer survivorship experience and decrease the economic burden of cancer survivorship in the United States,” the authors write.
One new and slightly positive aspect of survivorship costs is the implementation of an annual cap on out-of-pocket expenses under the Affordable Care Act, according to an expert not involved with the study.
As of 2014, there is a cap of $6350, which is below the estimated per patient costs reported in this study, noted Nancy L. Keating, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine and of healthcare policy at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
“It’s still a lot of money, and the fact is that it’s too much money, particularly for people with lower incomes, but this is the first time that we have had such caps, so it might help a little bit,” she told Medscape Medical News.
However, the spending caps only apply to aspects of care normally covered by insurance, and don’t account for travel time and costs (which can include the cost of moving temporarily to be near a treatment center) or lost productivity.
There were approximately 13.4 million cancer survivors in 2012, which is 4.6% of the population in the United States.
“Given the advances in early detection and treatment of cancer and the aging of the US population, the number of cancer survivors is projected to increase by >30% during the next decade, to approximately 18 million,” the authors write.