The Big Picture
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, cancer accounts for nearly one out of four deaths occurring in the United States. The American Cancer Society states that the total annual cost of cancer in the United States for 2010 was $263.8 billion dollars. This number accounts for the following expenditures and lost wages:
- Direct Medical Costs: $102.8 Billion
- Indirect Morbidity Costs: $20.9 billion
- Indirect Mortality Costs: $140.1 billion
Direct medical costs is the total of all health expenditures, while indirect morbidity accounts for the cost of lost production due to illness, and indirect mortality is a way of calculating the cost of lost productivity due to premature death.
Americans and Health Insurance
Such large numbers are caused by several factors including the cost of treatment and a lack of health insurance among Americans. The U.S. Census Bureau claimed that as of 2009 approximately 51 million Americans were without health insurance. The financial impact of cancer can be felt emotionally, mentally, and throughout an entire family and support system, not just the patients themselves. There are three main forms of dealing with the costs associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment:
- Private Insurance
- Government Insurance (programs such as Medicare or Medicaid)
- No Insurance or “paying out of pocket”
The American Cancer Society has addressed the hardships associated with those who do not have health insurance as it relates to the treatment and health of cancer patients. The ACS has cited Cancer Facts and Figures 2011 stating that “uninsured patients and those from ethnic minorities are more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at a later stage, when treatment is more extensive and costly. This accounts for higher medical costs, poorer outcomes, and higher cancer death rates.” These findings can be especially devastating for patients with mesothelioma as the cancer is already difficult to diagnosis while it is in the early stages. While there is no known cure, those patients diagnosed at the beginning of the cancer’s onset are better able to manage symptoms and have more treatment options than those diagnosed as being stage III and stage IV.
However, treatments and drugs should not be the only costs patients consider when deciding whether or not to continue on their doctor’s recommended plan. The cost of treating cancer also involves various “hidden costs” that increase due to treatments:
- Parking Fees
- Child Care
- Working less and therefore earning less
These latent costs along with the expense of imaging scans, surgeries, drugs, hospital stays, etc can greatly affect the medical decisions made by both doctors and their patients.
Cancer as whole is a disease in which the economic impacts can be felt across the country, and have both indirect and direct effects on its citizens. This is true especially with mesothelioma; a cancer that is difficult to diagnosis without the use of several testing procedures, and also requires multimodal treatments in which patients encounter a variety of curative and palliative methods. Patients with mesothelioma are all too familiar with the daunting costs that accompany this form of cancer, especially if they are currently without health insurance.