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Cost a barrier to care for many US cancer survivors

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, July 4 (Reuters) One in five cancer survivors younger than 65 delay getting necessary care, or may not receive such care at all, due to cost, a new study shows.

And cancer survivors with no health insurance coverage -- about 17 per cent of the total -- are much more likely than those with insurance to delay or miss getting medical care or purchasing prescription medications, the researchers found.

''Health care providers and policy makers should recognize that costs may pose considerable barriers for many cancer survivors,'' Dr. Susan Sabatino of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and her colleagues write in the June 1 issue of Cancer.

More than 10 million people in the US are cancer survivors, note the authors. To investigate health insurance coverage among cancer survivors younger than 65, who are not eligible for Medicare, the researchers analyzed data from the National Health Interview Surveys for 1998 and 2000 including a total of nearly 52,000 people -- 1,718 of whom were cancer survivors.

Cancer survivors were slightly more likely than people who had never been diagnosed with cancer to have public insurance, but overall health insurance coverage, after adjustment for age, sex, race and ethnicity, was similar between the two groups, Sabatino and her colleagues found; 17.2 per cent of cancer survivors had no health insurance, compared to 17.8 per cent of people who had never been diagnosed with cancer. About half of uninsured individuals said they had no coverage for financial reasons.

Among cancer survivors, 20.9 per cent said they delayed or missed getting care due to cost or concerns about costs, compared to 12.3 percent of people with no history of cancer.

Two-thirds of the uninsured cancer survivors said they had delayed or skipped necessary care due to costs. Nearly 43 per cent of cancer survivors with no health coverage said they had failed to get necessary prescription medicines due to cost concerns, compared to 15.8 per cent of uninsured people with no history of cancer.

Based on the findings, Sabatino and her team estimate that there are 660,000 uninsured cancer survivors in the US. ''Efforts to expand health insurance coverage are likely to increase access to needed health care for cancer survivors in this age group,'' they conclude.


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