Healthcare News & Insights

Cancer costs double in 20 years; some payers feel more pain than others

It’s not news that cancer costs have increased dramatically in the past 20 years. But who’s paying more — and why — might surprise you.

Some interesting insights can be gleaned from a recent study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study found that total dollars spent on cancer care nearly doubled from $24.1 million in 1987 to $48.1 million in 2005. (Amounts in this article are all expressed in 2007 dollars.)  But cancer care as a share of total medical costs remained basically flat — rising from 4.8% in 1987 to 4.9% in 2005.

The researchers said the increase in costs was driven by more cancer cases — itself fueled by an increase in geriatric patients. Other changes in cancer care, such as a decrease in inpatient care and a dramatic increase in outpatient care, also contributed to shifts in where medical dollars are spent.

But while costs in general are up, the burden isn’t being shared equally among payers. The survey showed that in real dollars, some payers paid far more than others. Between 1987 and 2005 the costs incurred by:

  • Medicaid increased 488%
  • Private insurers increased 137%
  • Medicare increased 99%
  • Public programs (aside from Medicare/Medicaid) increased 25%, and
  • Patients paying out-of-pocket costs decreased 7%.

Note: The researchers used data from the 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey and the 2001-2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.

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