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Out-of-Pocket Cancer Costs High for Patients With Medicare Only

Without supplemental insurance, out-of-pocket costs average 25 percent of annual earnings

MONDAY, Nov. 28, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Medical bills for older U.S. cancer patients can cost one-quarter of their income or more if they have Medicare without supplemental insurance, according to a study published online Nov. 23 in JAMA Oncology.

Amol K. Narang, M.D., and Lauren Hersch Nicholas, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues examined data from 1,409 Medicare patients diagnosed with cancer between 2002 and 2012.

The researchers found that those without supplemental health insurance had out-of-pocket costs that averaged one-quarter of their income. But these costs were as high as 63.1 percent of income in 10 percent of cases. The actual annual out-of-pocket costs ranged from $2,116 to $8,115. Hospitalizations accounted for 12 percent to 46 percent of out-of-pocket cancer spending, depending on whether and what type of supplemental insurance a patient had. Medicare covers 80 percent of outpatient health costs and has copays of $1,000 for each hospital visit, the researchers noted.

“The health shock can be followed by financial toxicity,” Nicholas said in a Hopkins news release. “A lot of treatments are given without a discussion of the costs or the financial consequences.”

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