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NAQC Newsroom: Research

Cancer Treatment Cost in the United States: Has the Burden Shifted Over Time?

Friday, May 21, 2010  
Cancer Treatment Cost in the United States: Has the Burden Shifted Over Time?
Florence K. Tangka, Justin G. Trogdon, Lisa C. Richardson, David Howard, Susan A. Sabatino, and Eric A. Finkelstein. Cancer published online May 10, 2010.

A new analysis finds that the costs of treating cancer have nearly doubled over the past two decades and that the shares of these costs that are paid for by private health insurance and Medicaid have increased. The study also reveals that cancer costs have shifted away from inpatient treatments to outpatient care. This information could be used to prioritize future resources for treating and preventing cancer.

The investigators found that in 1987 the total medical cost of cancer (in 2007 dollars) was $24.7 billion. Private insurance financed the largest share of the total (42 percent), followed by Medicare (33 percent). Out-of-pocket payments accounted for 17 percent of the costs, other public sources paid for 7 percent, and Medicaid paid for 1 percent. Between 1987 and the 2001–2005 period, the total medical cost of cancer increased to $48.1 billion due to new cases diagnosed among the aging population as well as an increase in the prevalence of cancer. In 2001–2005, private insurance paid for 50 percent of the costs, and Medicare paid for 34 percent. Out-of-pocket payments accounted for 8 percent of the costs, other public sources paid for 5 percent, and Medicaid paid for 3 percent. The authors noted that additional research will be needed to determine the impact of these changes on costs and quality of cancer care in the United States.

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