According to a shocking new study, the cost of treating cancer in the United States almost doubled over the past two decades.
However the cost of cancer drugs is not necessarily the cause. While the price of new cancer treatments is indeed soaring, researchers conclude that the rising costs were mostly driven by the growing number of cancer patients.
Researchers also found that private insurers now cover a greater share of cancer treatment costs — actually about 50% — while patients’ out-of-pocket costs have taken somewhat of a dive over the last two decades.
The study is first to combine national cancer costs for all variables of payers and see how they have transformed over time. The figures are reported in 2007 dollars.
The costs of cancer treatment rose from nearly $25 billion in 1987 to more than $48 billion by the end of year 2005.
The rise in costs is due to an increase, over 20 years, in how many cancer cases there are reported. The researchers made use of data from national telephone surveys done in 1987, and from 2001 through 2005, which collected information on medical conditions as well as who paid the bills. More than 164,000 people participated in the survey.
The study, however, did not offer precise estimates of how the number of people treated for cancer changed from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. It showed, however, dramatic increases in the number of cancer cases covered by the government’s Medicare and Medicaid programs. Medicare has consistently covered about a third of the U.S’s cancer costs. Medicaid accounts for only 3%.
Also found by the researchers:
The percentage of cancer costs from inpatient hospital care fell from 64% to about 27%. A shift to less expensive outpatient care and cost containment efforts by large health insurers, assisted in keeping down increases in the costs per patient.
The proportion of cancer costs which were paid by private insurers climbed from 42 to 50%.
The proportion of costs paid out of the pocket of patients — including co-payments and deductibles — dropped from 17 to 8%.
The percentage of Americans with private health insurance has been shrinking and recently hit its lowest point of 50 years. While the proportion of cancer treatment costs paid by private insurance rose.