Patients diagnosed with cancer were 2.65 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than people without cancer, according to a study of Washington State cancer patients published in Health Affairs, now available online ahead of print (doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2012.1263).
In the United States, private insurance is no protection against financial catastrophe from a medical problem because when people become too sick or injured to work, they often lose their health care coverage. This isn't news to anybody, but every piece of information that can be brought to bear on this situation is important.
The study, led by Scott Ramsey, MD, PhD, of the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, linked data from the Cancer Surveillance System of Western Washington, a population-based cancer registry with records of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Washington to analyze information about 197,840 people who were diagnosed with cancer between 1995 and 2009.
The results showed that 2.2 percent of cancer patients filed for bankruptcy protection after being diagnosed with cancer, compared with 1.1 percent of matched controls who were not diagnosed with cancer.
“This is the strongest evidence we have between a disease and risk for severe financial distress,”; Ramsey said in a news release. “I've not seen other studies that linked databases of this quality.”;
Other noteworthy findings:
- Patients most likely to seek bankruptcy were younger, female, and non-white and to have localized or regional stage disease, as opposed to advanced disease.
- The highest incidence rates for bankruptcy at one year after diagnosis are for patients diagnosed with thyroid cancer, followed by lung cancer, uterine cancer, and leukemia/lymphoma.