It’s no secret that cancer care is expensive: From treatment to medication, the financial side effects of a cancer diagnosis are often, unfortunately, one of the first things patients worry about when considering their care. However, on top of the cost of medical treatment, there are a number of hidden, indirect costs of cancer that often significantly drive up the price tag of treatment — and for which patients should be ready.
What are some of the Indirect Costs of Cancer?
- Loss of or Reduced Work Hours: When someone is being treated for cancer, his or her lifestyle may be completely upended. If they’re working-age, they may need to take an extended leave from their job, reduce their hours (and, subsequently, their income) or could lose their position altogether. While disability may be an option for some, it won’t entirely close the gaps caused by lost wages.
- Childcare: While the person battling cancer is the focus of any treatment plan, there are likely many other people who will be affected. For instance, if the patient has children, there needs to be attention given to childcare: With long hours spent at therapy and even more hours spent recuperating from treatments or surgery, caring for a child at the same time is impossible. That means many parents need to line up after-school sitters or arrange for new transportation to and from school or extracurricular activities — all indirect costs of cancer that few people consider.
- Personal Caregiver: If a cancer patient is older or doesn’t have a strong support system nearby, he or she may also need to consider caregiving options for themselves, which also drives up costs.
- Transportation: The patient’s transportation is also a factor — to and from appointments or even the pharmacy — as well as housing, as some patients may live far from a treatment center and need to temporarily relocate.
- Incidentals: During treatment, some patients may opt for wigs or other cosmetic additions to reduce the effect of side effects, and others need to invest in special diets to promote health.
In the long term, cancer patients may have to invest in legal services — to make end-of-life arrangements or ensure their rights are protected — as well as ongoing mental-health care or family-planning like fertility treatments or adoption.
Unforeseen Insurance Complications for Cancer Patients
On top of these indirect costs of cancer, there are a number of factors that can also affect medical costs, even for those with adequate medical insurance:
- Out-of-network: Depending on where a patient lives, the type of cancer or the physicians in the area, he or she may need to opt for out-of-network care — which could balloon medical costs.
- High-deductible plans: Many health-insurance plans today are considered high-deductible — defined as a minimum deductible of $1,300 per individual or $2,600 per family. Even though premiums may be lower, HDHPs can be financially limiting and may cause patients to neglect care.
- Co-pays: Though co-pays may not seem significant, the frequency of appointments during cancer treatment can make them add up. Co-insurance — the amount an insurance company expects a patient to also consider — is another factor, one which often isn’t readily known to patients and can be an unfortunate surprise aftercare.
- Non-covered treatments: As a cost-controlling method, many insurance companies decline to pay for certain treatments. If that particular therapy is the patient’s best chance for survival, he or she could be faced with a challenging decision.
- Supplemental insurance: Without supplemental insurance to cover gaps not addressed by Medicaid or Medicare, many patients find themselves facing steep costs.