Providers can no longer ignore rising cancer costs

Providers can no longer ignore the skyrocketing costs of cancer treatments and the financial burden it creates for their patients, Bloomberg has reported.

The rising costs are due to more expensive drugs--some immunity system-based therapies can cost $150,000 a year--and higher co-payments and deductibles for patients. 

"People tend to think it's a problem for the lower socioeconomic class, but traditionally those individuals have more resources available to them," Kim Bell, an administrator who helps patients with financial management at the Cleveland Clinic's Taussig Cancer Institute, told Bloomberg. "But it's really hard for the middle and upper-middle class because there are not that many people who can afford that kind of thing out of pocket." Some cancer patients could face bills of as much as $50,000 a month depending on their insurance and the drugs they need, Bell added.

Meanwhile, hospitals ramp up their construction efforts to meet what will continue to be a growing population of cancer patients. And they have also come under critcism for buying up oncology practices and driving up the price of care.

The costs have become so concerning that it is a planned topic of discussion at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), where members will explore ways to make cancer care packages more affordable, Bloomberg reported. ASCO has also floated a proposal where oncology practices would receive incentives to better manage their patients' care and keep costs down by avoiding hospitalizations and other expensive forms of care.

The proposal "addresses the serious financial challenges facing today's oncology practices, addresses the problems of affordability facing both payers and patients, and ensures that patients with cancer will be able to receive the full range of services that are critical to high-quality, evidence-based care," said ASCO President Peter Paul Yu, M.D., in a statement.

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg article 
- check out the ASCO proposal