To compare the prevalence of high out-of-pocket burdens among patients with cancer with other chronically ill and well patients, and to examine the sociodemographic characteristics associated with high burdens among patients with cancer.
The sample included persons 18 to 64 years of age who received treatment for cancer, taken from a nationally representative sample of the US population from the 2001 to 2008 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. We examined the proportion of persons living in families with high out-of-pocket burdens associated with medical spending, including insurance premiums, relative to income, defining high health care (total) burden as spending more than 20% of income on health care (and premiums).
The risk of high burdens is significantly greater for patients with cancer compared with other chronically ill and well patients. We find that 13.4% of patients with cancer had high total burdens, in contrast to 9.7% among those with other chronic conditions and 4.4% among those without chronic conditions. Among nonelderly persons with cancer, the following were associated with higher out-of-pocket burdens: private nongroup insurance, age 55 to 64 years, non-Hispanic black, never married or widowed, one child or no children, unemployed, lower income, lower education level, living in nonmetropolitan statistical areas, and having other chronic conditions.
High burdens may affect treatment choice and deter patients from getting care. Thus, although a detailed patient-physician discussion of costs of care may not be feasible, we believe that an awareness of out-of-pocket burdens among patients with cancer is useful for clinical oncologists.