Cancer Patients at High Risk of Filing for Bankruptcy

A leading cause of bankruptcy filings in the United States is medical illness, and cancer patients are the hardest hit, according to a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago earlier this month. The study showed that bankruptcy filings are almost double for cancer patients one year after diagnosis when compared to the general population. The average time for patients to begin the Chapter 7 process is 2.5 years after their diagnosis.

It gets even worse. Bankruptcy rates increase four-fold within five years after a patient’s diagnosis, according to one healthcare economist. According to Medscape News, the total costs for cancer in 2010 were $264 billion, with $103 billion for direct medical costs. One expert noted that cancer costs would exceed $150 billion over the coming decades.

The study focused on cancer patients who filed for chapter 7 or chapter 13 from 1995 to 2009. The study showed that cancer patients over age 65 were at less of a risk for bankruptcy than younger patients. According to the data, the risk of bankruptcy increases the longer that the patient survives after diagnosis.

One doctor commented that oncologists should talk to patients about the costs of care and treatment. The risk of bankruptcy varies depending on the type of cancer, stage of diagnosis and specific treatment methods. The National Cancer Institute funded the study.

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