Cancer Care Costs Expected to Soar Through This Decade

Cancer, researcher and other words

Cancer-related medical costs are expected to soar in the coming decade, making it more important than ever for mesothelioma victims to seek compensation for their asbestos-related disease.

According to an extensive study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and RTI International, cancer treatment costs will rise in every state – some by more than double – by 2020.

The expected rise in state-level cancer costs will range from a 115-percent increase in Arizona to a more modest 34-percent increase in Washington D.C.

“Over the past 20 years, the cost of treating cancer has nearly doubled,” wrote lead author Justin Trogdon, PhD, of RTI International. “Effective prevention and early detection strategies are needed to limit the growing burden of cancer.”

Results of the study were published in the September issue of The American Journal of Managed Care, which included a state-by-state breakdown of cancer costs.

Allocating Costs for Cancer Treatment

The study was designed to help states make evidence-based decisions about the allocation of resources for cancer prevention and treatment.

California ($28.3 billion), Florida ($24.9 billion) Texas ($19.6 billion) and New York ($17.4 billion) — four high-population states — are expected to have the highest cancer-care costs by 2020.

The lowest will be Alaska ($508 million) and Wyoming ($539 million).

Most often cited for the rising costs are an aging population and more expensive cancer treatments, which constitute a large percentage of the crippling national health-care costs in the United States.

Mesothelioma is an aggressive but relatively rare cancer and represents only a small portion of overall cancer costs. An estimated 3,000 Americans are diagnosed each year.

By comparison, more than 200,000 are diagnosed with lung cancer. Unlike other cancers, though, mesothelioma should be completely preventable. It is caused almost exclusively by an exposure to asbestos.

And because asbestos manufacturers knew it was causing cancer and still using it, people who suffer from mesothelioma often can seek compensation through the legal process. Mesothelioma also has a lengthy latency period, taking up to 50 years after exposure to be diagnosed, and many of the people who contract it do so because they were exposed to asbestos at work.

Mesothelioma patients often are forced to pay significant medical expenses because many treatments are not covered by health-insurance policies, making it critical to explore other options.

Medical spending estimates on cancer for this study included payment by insurers and out-of-pocket payments by patients like deductibles, co-payments and other non-covered services.

Older Populations to Feel Costs the Most

Researchers in the study based their findings upon cancer prevalence data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey that was used from 2004 to 2008. It also used projected U.S. Census Bureau population forecasts.

States with the highest expected increase in residents over 65 also were the states with the highest-forecast increases, a direct reflection of a demographic shift.

That shift in demographics varied widely. It resulted in a 7-percent drop in expected cancer cases for Washington D.C., and an increase in Arizona of 45 percent. Florida (353,000) California (351,000) and Texas (249,000) were expected to have the greatest number of cancer cases by 2020.

The median increase in cancer care costs among all states was 72 percent. Authors of the study explained that the declining cancer incidence rates in recent years, along with the longer survival periods had little effect on their projections. They used a base-model assumption of 3.6-percent increase in medical costs.

“The number of people treated for cancer, and the costs of their cancer-related medical care are projected to increase substantially,” wrote the authors in the conclusion, while urging more emphasis on prevention and early detection.


Tim Povtak is an award-winning writer with more than 30 years of reporting national and international news. His most recent experience is in researching and writing about asbestos litigation issues and asbestos-related conditions like mesothelioma. If you have a story idea for Tim, please email him at tpovtak@asbestos.com

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