Monday, May 10, 2010

Cancer care costs double? So have all healthcare costs

ATLANTA – Cancer Digest – Researchers looking at how cancer care costs have changed over the past 20 years have found that the cost of treating cancer has doubled over that time, but as a percentage of total healthcare costs cancer's share hasn't changed much.

Led by Dr. Florence K. Tangka of the Centers for Disease Control, the researchers pooled data from the 2001 through 2005 taken from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 1987 National Medical Care Expenditure Survey to estimate cancer-attributable medical expenditures by payer and type of service.

In 1987, the total medical cost of cancer (in 2007 US dollars) was $24.7 billion. Between 1987 and the 2001 to 2005 period, the total medical cost of cancer increased to $48.1 billion. The researchers noted that the increase was accounted for by the greater number of new cases in the aging population as well as an overall increase in the prevalence of cancer. As a percentage of overall healthcare costs, cancer inched up from 4.8 percent in 1987 to 4.9 percent in 2005.

They also found that who pays the cost has shifted more toward private payers who footed 42 percent of the bill in 1987, with Medicare chipping in 33 percent and patients paying out-of-pocket for 17 percent of the care. By 2005, private payers were financing 50 percent of the cost, while Medicare's share rose to 34 percent. Patients' share fell to 8 percent.

Perhaps a more dramatic shift was where people received their cancer care. In 1987, 64.4 percent of all cancer patients received their care in the hospital. By 2005, only 27.5 percent received their treatments in the hospital.

Overall, the authors identified three trends in the total costs of cancer:
1) Medical costs of cancer have nearly doubled;
2) Cancer costs have shifted away from the inpatient setting; and
3) The share of these costs paid for by private insurance and Medicaid have increased.

SOURCE: CANCER, "Cancer treatment cost in the United States," published online: May 10, 2010 by the American Cancer Society.

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