Background: There has not been a comprehensive analysis of how aggregate cancer costs have changed over time. The authors present 1) updated estimates of the prevalence and total cost of cancer for select payers and how these have changed over the past 2 decades; and 2) for each payer, the distribution of payments by type of service over time to assess whether there have been shifts in cancer treatment settings.
Methods: Pooled data from the 2001 through 2005 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the 1987 National Medical Care Expenditure Survey were used for the analysis. The authors used an econometric approach to estimate cancer-attributable medical expenditures by payer and type of service.
Results: In 1987, the total medical cost of cancer (in 2007 US dollars) was $24.7 billion. Private payers financed the largest share of the total (42%), followed by Medicare (33%), out of pocket (17%), other public (7%), and Medicaid (1%). Between 1987 and the 2001 to 2005 period, the total medical cost of cancer increased to $48.1 billion. In 2001 to 2005, the shares of cancer costs were: private insurance (50%), Medicare (34%), out of pocket (8%), other public (5%), and Medicaid (3%). The share of total cancer costs that resulted from inpatient admissions fell from 64.4% in 1987 to 27.5% in 2001 to 2005.
Conclusions: The authors identified 3 trends in the total costs of cancer: 1) the medical costs of cancer have nearly doubled; 2) cancer costs have shifted away from the inpatient setting; and 3) the share of these costs paid for by private insurance and Medicaid have increased.