As my cancer treatments progressed, I had a little space for my business mind to become fascinated with the cost. I receive excellent care at Providence Regional Cancer Center in Lacey, Washington. I will gladly pay every cent charged by my oncologist because his brain makes sure my cancer is treated effectively. The nursing staff in the infusion clinic earn every penny. The drugs I have floating around in my blood stream seem to find their targets and I consider them life saving. But, the totality of the cost of cancer treatment makes my brain hurt.
In 2017, I racked up over $800,000 in charges to my health insurance. One drug alone cost over $34,000 – and it was infused six times. I paid a fraction of these costs through my deductible, Regence picked up the majority of the tab while the health care providers and facilities wrote off the difference. My treatment continues into 2018. Like most cancer patients, I’ll pay the out-of-pocket maximum twice.
The cost of having cancer extends far beyond the walls of a cancer center or a radiation clinic. Take into account lost wages, deductibles, prescription co-pays, gas and transportation costs. And, these are just the financial costs – not including the emotional burden and psychological impacts. As a society, Americans are horrible at saving. A recent report showed 57% of Americans don’t have $500 for an unexpected expense.
The Mayday Foundation’s mission is to provide immediate, practical support to families where a parent is diagnosed with cancer and kids are in the home. It’s my goal to be a part of the conversation on how we shift our thinking to BEFORE the financial crisis happens. Here are some questions I am pondering:
- How do we educate Americans about the cost of health care?
- What knowledge and education can be offered so Americans begin setting aside the amount of their deductible?
- What steps can we take to improve savings rates and utilization of health savings accounts?
- What can we do to increase awareness around the larger impacts of financial instability?
- How do we become active participants in our health care buying decisions?
If you are concerned about the cost of cancer treatment and its impact on our communities, you may find some of these articles interesting. These researchers and authors are talking about the toll cancer takes on our society.
- Price of Cancer Care and Its Tax on Quality of Life – This article in the Journal of Oncology Practice talks about how innovations in cancer therapy have brought big price tags. The authors reference how financial toxicity impacts health-related quality of life.
- Cancer-Related Financial Toxicity – Family Reach looks at the impact of cancer-related financial toxicity on patients and families and provides some insight into how to make changes.
- Medical Debt Among People with Health Insurance – This population of Americans would appear to be the least likely to fall into financial instability after a cancer diagnosis but the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates 1 in 3 Americans have difficulty paying their medical bills.
- Fear of Aging Prevents Many from Saving for Health Care – This 2017 article from NPR.org investigates health savings account utilization rates and the psychological factors that impact health care savings.
- When Your Parent Has Cancer – A Guide for Teens – This is a little off-topic but I want to memorialize this link so it can be helpful to families. This brochure is published by the National Cancer Institute and is an excellent resource for parents. I would even say tweens would find this content valuable.
The Mayday Foundation is a 501(c)(3) approved non-profit organization that supports families with a parent diagnosed with cancer while caring for children at home. The Mayday Foundation can provide immediate, practical help with expenses like rent, utilities, groceries, transportation costs, and other household expenses.