It doesn’t matter what metric you use, $90 billion dollars is a LOT of money to spend. Especially in these difficult financial times. The bottom line is that cancer spending in 1990 was $27 billion. In 2008, this figure increased over 3 times to a whopping $90 billion. This massive increase in spending is said to be caused by the rapidly increasing costs of complex new drugs, robotic surgeries and radiation procedures, and the increasing number of patients eligible for them.
More older, less healthy patients who weren’t able to endure surgery now have less invasive operations or more focused radiation regimens. Also, more patients can be placed on chemotherapy due to the introduction of new treatments and new drugs that can manage chemo side effects.
As expensive as cancer treatments have become, it isn’t really out of line with overall trends in health spending. More people are being diagnosed with cancer as the US population ages. Now, more patients are being treated in outpatient settings instead of in hospitals.
The people who pay for cancer care is something that has changed. Medicaid costs have increased by 488%, private insurer costs by 137%, and Medicare by 99%. Out-of-pocket costs paid directly by patients actually fell by 7%. It is unknown how the new Health Care Bill will affect these figures. One of the most ominous findings is that one in four cancer patients or their families said that they used up either all or the majority of their savings to pay for treatments.
This is a lot of money. Unfortunately, there are not any incentives for doctors or drug companies to lower prices or to use resources wisely. In fact, cancer specialists can make higher profits by prescribing more expensive drugs, and studies show that doctors who have high reimbursements have a tendency to prescribe more costly therapies.
This expense can have devastating effects on individual finances. In my opinion, this is an unacceptable situation. It just doesn’t seem right to charge this much money for the level of treatment that is purchased. Below is a video made by the Kaiser Family Foundation that shows the financial effects on a few selected cancer patients who actually had private health insurance.