Medical Debt Incurred Despite Health Insurance Coverage: Survey Shows Cancer Patients Struggle Financially

New York City, NY – A recent survey has revealed a troubling trend in cancer patients’ financial burdens, even with health insurance coverage. The American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network published the findings, shedding light on the challenges faced by cancer patients in the United States.

According to the survey, nearly all cancer patients struggling with medical debt were found to have health insurance at the time the debt accumulated. This highlights the significant impact of the high cost of cancer care in the country. The survey, conducted among 1,300 cancer patients and survivors from March to April, revealed that 47% of patients reported medical debt related to their cancer treatment, with half of them carrying debt exceeding $5,000.

Furthermore, the survey showed that more than two-thirds of patients carried their medical debt for over a year, with about a third carrying it for over three years. Despite having insurance coverage, 98% of those burdened with medical debt still faced financial strain as a result of their cancer treatment costs.

The CEO of the American Cancer Society, Karen Knudsen, expressed concern over the findings, emphasizing the devastating impact of cancer care on patients’ financial well-being. She highlighted the serious implications of medical debt on patients’ health, such as delays in cancer screenings, medication adherence, and access to essentials like food and transportation.

Additionally, the survey uncovered disparities in care access among Black and Hispanic patients with medical debt, who were twice as likely as white respondents to report being denied care due to their financial situation. The financial strain of medical debt was also noted to disproportionately affect younger cancer patients, with nearly three-quarters of patients aged 35 to 44 carrying medical debt.

The survey’s results underscore the urgent need for addressing the affordability of cancer care in the country. Experts like Dr. Fumiko Chino, a radiation oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, have firsthand experience with the high cost of cancer care and the challenges patients face in managing medical debt. Caplan, the head of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, highlighted the role of high-deductible health plans in contributing to patients’ financial burdens, even with insurance coverage.

As the findings bring to light the financial challenges faced by cancer patients, there is a growing call for early detection strategies to reduce the economic burden on patients and improve outcomes. The survey serves as a reminder of the critical need to address the exorbitant costs of cancer care and ensure access to affordable treatment options for all patients.