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Cancer Patients May Face Higher Bankruptcy Odds
Date:5/15/2013

l stress," she said. Smith ended up filing for bankruptcy and moving from her foreclosed house to affordable living for seniors.

Researchers have noted before that the financial burden on people with cancer can be substantial. Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey in 2004 showed that 6.5 percent of the $20.1 billion spent on cancer care by those not yet on Medicare each year comes directly from the patients themselves, according to study background information.

A small study presented last year at an American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting showed that four of every five cancer patients and their spouses or caregivers said they had concerns about meeting medical costs and suffered associated financial and mental stress.

The new research, published online May 15 and in the June print issue of Health Affairs, is based on data taken from a registry of people 21 and older who lived in Washington and were diagnosed with cancer from 1995 through 2009. They were compared to a randomly sampled population of people without cancer, matched by age, gender and ZIP code. Cancer cases were identified using a cancer registry based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, part of a U.S. National Cancer Institute epidemiology database.

Key findings of the new study include the following:

  • Cancer patients were 2.65 times more likely than people without cancer to go bankrupt.
  • Those cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy were more likely to be younger, female and nonwhite than were cancer patients who didn't file. The youngest age groups had up to 10 times the bankruptcy rate compared to the older age groups. The youngest groups in the study were diagnosed at a time when their debt was typically high and their income was not, the study noted.
  • Bankruptcy filings went up as time went by. While the proportion of cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy within one year of diagnosis was 0.52 percent, it
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