Cancer Costs Double In 20 Years But Are Still In Line With Overall Health Spending, Study FindsUSA Today: "The cost of treating cancer has doubled over the past 20 years, but those costs are in line with overall trends in health spending. And while more people are getting cancer as the U.S. population ages, treatment has shifted away from hospitals to outpatient settings, finds a study in Monday's edition of the journal Cancer. In 1987, the total cost of cancer treatment in the United States was $24.7 billion (in 2007 dollars), compared with $48.1 billion a year during 2001-2005. The cost of cancer treatments as a percentage of overall medical treatment has stayed steady at about 5% over the past 20 years. One thing that has changed is who pays for cancer care. Medicaid costs have increased by 488%, private insurer costs by 137%, and Medicare by 99%, the researchers found. Out-of-pocket costs paid by patients, including co-pays and deductibles, fell by 7%" (Weise, 5/9).
The Associated Press: "The soaring price of new cancer treatments has received widespread attention, but the researchers conclude that rising costs were mainly driven by the growing number of cancer patients. The study also finds cancer accounts for only 5 percent of total U.S. medical costs, and that has not changed in the last few decades. ... The researchers also found that private insurers now cover a greater share of cancer treatment costs - about 50 percent - while patients' out-of-pocket costs have fallen over the past two decades. ... The rise in costs is mainly due to an increase over 20 years in how many cancer patients there are, said the study's lead author, Florence Tangka of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The researchers used data from national telephone surveys done in 1987 and from 2001 through 2005, which gathered information on medical conditions as well as who paid the bills. More than 164,000 people were surveyed. The study did not offer precise estimates of how the number of people treated for cancer changed from the late 1980s to the early 2000s. But it showed dramatic increases in the number of cancer cases covered by the government's Medicare and Medicaid programs. Medicare, which covers the elderly and disabled, has consistently covered about a third of the nation's cancer costs. Medicaid accounts for only 3 percent" (Stobbe, 5/10).
The Columbus Dispatch: "Cancer is expensive to treat, and it's a disease that gets attention from health insurers concerned with the bottom line, said Kelly McGivern, president of the Ohio Association of Health Plans. Researchers also found that cancer patients today spend less time in hospitals than patients did in 1987. This can be attributed to advances in medicine, treatments that now are performed in outpatient clinics or at home, and efforts by insurance companies to save money, Tangka said. Though patients' share of the nation's cancer costs are smaller now than in 1987, treatment is still expensive and can push individuals into bankruptcy. In 2008, the American Society of Clinical Oncology issued guidelines for doctors about discussing with patients how much they could expect to pay. Chemotherapy costs, for example, are rising about 15 percent a year" (Hoholik, 5/10). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.