Uninsured cancer patients pay more, get less

Uninsured cancer patients pay more than twice as much out of pocket for their medical care than insured patients, but end up receiving half as much care, according to a new report. Hispanic cancer patients may be especially vulnerable within this trend: 20 percent of Hispanic cancer patients under age 65 lack insurance, compared with 11 percent of all uninsured cancer patients under age 65.

From the Health Behavior News Service:
UNINSURED CANCER PATIENTS PAY MORE, GET LESS CARE

By Becky Ham, Staff Writer
Health Behavior News Service

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Uninsured cancer patients pay more than twice as much out of pocket for their medical care than insured patients, but end up receiving half as much care, according to a new report.
Hispanic cancer patients may be especially vulnerable within this trend: 20 percent of Hispanic cancer patients under age 65 lack insurance, compared with 11 percent of all uninsured cancer patients under age 65.

Uninsured patients under 65 paid an average of $1,343 out of pocket for cancer care, while privately insured patients paid $549 and Medicare patients paid $390.

Although they pay more out of pocket, uninsured patients spend only half as much money overall on medical care, and therefore receive fewer services, according to Kenneth E. Thorpe, Ph.D., and David Howard, Ph.D., of Emory University.

“Uninsured patients had fewer overall provider encounters, inpatient admissions and outpatient hospital visits, physician office visits and emergency room visits,” they say.

“Every year about 200,000 of the 4 million or so patients undergoing treatment for cancer lack insurance,” Thorpe adds.

The researchers examined insurance and care costs over six months for 1,383 cancer patients nationwide, 81 of whom were uninsured. Among the cancer patients younger than age 65, 10 percent of white, 14 percent of black and 20 percent of Hispanic patients did not have insurance.

The larger number of uninsured Hispanic patients may be due in part to lower rates of private insurance among Hispanics. Seventy percent of all cancer patients in the study had some sort of private health insurance, compared with 51 percent of Hispanic patients.

The researchers say that differences in cost and care should be examined in a larger sample of cancer patients to determine if these trends hold up in a national population.

The study was published in the April issue of Health Affairs and supported by the Commonwealth Fund.

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Health Behavior News Service: (202) 387-2829 or www.hbns.org.
Health Affairs can be viewed on the Web at www.healthaffairs.org.
For more information, contact Jon Gardner, (301) 656-7401 ext. 230, or [email protected] [email protected]

Center for the Advancement of Health
Contact: Ira R. Allen
Director of Public Affairs
202.387.2829
[email protected]

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