Cancer Survivors Face Hardship Over Medical Bills

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Hardships greatest among younger cancer survivors vs patients without cancer history
Hardships greatest among younger cancer survivors vs patients without cancer history

(HealthDay News) -- Cancer survivors carry greater financial burdens related to medical debt payments and bills vs patients without a cancer history, and younger survivors face the greatest hardships, according to a study published online in Cancer.

Zhiyuan Zheng, PhD, from the American Cancer Society in Atlanta, and colleagues used data from the 2013 to 2016 National Health Interview Survey to compare medical financial hardship among US cancer survivors and patients without a cancer history. Medical financial hardship was categorized as (1) material (e.g., problems paying medical bills); (2) psychological (e.g., worrying about paying medical bills); and (3) behavioral (e.g., delaying/forgoing care because of cost).

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The researchers found that compared with patients without a cancer history, cancer survivors were more likely to report any material (ages 18 to 49 years: 43.4 vs 30.1%; ages 50 to 64 years: 32.8 vs 27.8%; and ages ≥65 years: 17.3 vs 14.7%), psychological (ages 18 to 49 years: 53.5 vs 47.1%), or behavioral (ages 18 to 49 years: 30.6 vs 21.8%; ages 50 to 64 years: 27.2 vs 23.4%) measure of financial hardship. Among privately insured survivors, having a high-deductible health plan without a health savings account was associated with greater hardship vs having low-deductible insurance.

"Younger cancer survivors are particularly vulnerable to material, psychological, and behavioral medical financial hardship," the authors write. "Interventions designed to reduce financial hardship should consider multiple domains of hardship as well as insurance benefit design."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.


Zheng Z, Jemal A, Han X, et al. Medical financial hardship among cancer survivors in the United States. Canc. January 21, 2019. DOI:10.1002/cncr.31913

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