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Medical Costs of Cancer Have Nearly Doubled Since 1987

Little information is available on how cancer costs have changed over time and who pays most cancer-related expenses. Florence Tangka, Ph.D., a health economist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), led a team of scientists from CDC, Emory University, and RTI International in analyzing data from the 2001 through 2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and its predecessor, the National Medical Expenditure Survey, a one-time survey conducted in 1987.

The investigators found that in 1987 the total medical cost of cancer (in 2007 dollars) was $24.7 billion, paid by—

  • Private insurance (42%)
  • Medicare (33%)
  • Out-of-pocket payments (17%)
  • Other public sources (7%)
  • Medicaid (1%)

Between 1987 and the 2001–2005 period, the total medical cost of cancer increased to $48.1 billion because more people are getting cancer and living longer. In 2001–2005, the costs of treatment for cancer were paid by—

  • Private insurance (50%)
  • Medicare (34%)
  • Out-of-pocket payments (8%)
  • Other public sources (5%)
  • Medicaid (3%)

The share of cancer costs from hospitalized patients fell from 64% in 1987 to 28% in 2001–2005, while costs of cancer care outside of hospitals increased.

The article "Cancer Treatment Cost in the United States: Has the Burden Shifted Over Time?" was published July 15, 2010, in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. Coauthors include Justin G. Trogdon, Lisa C. Richardson, David Howard, Susan A. Sabatino, and Eric A. Finkelstein.

 
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