Medical financial hardship among cancer survivors in the United States

Cancer. 2019 May 15;125(10):1737-1747. doi: 10.1002/cncr.31913. Epub 2019 Jan 21.


Background: The current study examined medical financial hardship in cancer survivors and those without a cancer history in the United States.

Methods: The 2013 to 2016 National Health Interview Survey was used to identify cancer survivors (stratified by ages 18-49 years [1424 survivors], ages 50-64 years [2916 survivors], and ages ≥65 years [6014 survivors]) and individuals without a cancer history (ages 18-64 years [66,951 individuals], ages 50-64 years [31,741 individuals], and ages ≥65 years [25,744 individuals]). Medical financial hardship was categorized into 3 domains: 1) material (eg, problems paying medical bills); 2) psychological (eg, worrying about paying medical bills); and 3) behavioral (eg, delaying/forgoing care due to cost). Generalized ordinal logistic regressions were used to examine the associations between cancer history, hardship, and health insurance deductibles/health savings accounts (among privately insured cancer survivors aged 18-64 years only).

Results: Compared with those without a cancer history, cancer survivors were more likely to report any material (ages 18-49 years: 43.4% vs 30.1%; ages 50-64 years: 32.8% vs 27.8%; and ages ≥65 years: 17.3% vs 14.7%), psychological (ages 18-49 years: 53.5% vs 47.1%), and behavioral (ages 18-49 years: 30.6% vs 21.8%; and ages 50-64 years: 27.2% vs 23.4%) measure of financial hardship, and multiple domains of hardship (age groups 18-49 years and 50-64 years; all P < .01). Among privately insured survivors, having a high-deductible health plan without a health savings account was found to be associated with greater hardship compared with having low-deductible insurance.

Conclusions: Younger cancer survivors are particularly vulnerable to material, psychological, and behavioral medical financial hardship. Interventions designed to reduce financial hardship should consider multiple domains of hardship as well as insurance benefit design.

Keywords: benefit design; cancer survivors; health insurance; medical financial hardship.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cancer Survivors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cost of Illness*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Insurance, Health / economics*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • Young Adult