Study Says Cancer Patients More Likely File Bankruptcy
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Study Says Cancer Patients More Likely File Bankruptcy


May 16, 2013

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Cancer patients are much more likely to file for bankruptcy than those without cancer, according to a recent study cited by NBC News.

The study, which was published this week in the journal Health Affairs, studied nearly 400,000 adults in Washington state, using hospital and court records to compare those with cancer to those without the disease.

After analyzing data approximately 200,000 cancer sufferers and 200,000 people without cancer, the researchers discovered that 4,408 of those diagnosed with cancer had filed for bankruptcy, while only 2,291 of otherwise healthy adults had been to bankruptcy court.

Overall, cancer patients were two and a half times more likely to contact a bankruptcy attorney during the past 15 years, according to the study

Dr. Scott Ramsey, the lead author of the survey, told sources that the United States has a responsibility to "look into why this happening and see if there is something we as a society can do to reduce that risk."

Sources say that non-white females are in the highest category of risk, as they are the most likely cancer patients to file for bankruptcy, while patients that are 65 or older are the least likely to file.

Researchers speculated that the low rate of bankruptcy filings among older cancer patients is likely due to their Medicare and Social Security safety nets, while the high rate of filings among non-white females could be due to their lack of access to adequate health insurance.

Remarkably, the rate of bankruptcy among the youngest groups of cancer sufferers was up to 10 times the rate experienced by older Americans.

According to Ramsey, patients "who have fewer assets, less income and less generous insurance because of entry level jobs or no insurance are more vulnerable to severe financial distress."

Other patients who face unique risks include those afflicted by thyroid cancer, a disease that usually strikes younger women. Men with prostate cancer, however, were the least likely to need bankruptcy help.

And the study cautions that having insurance doesn’t necessarily save the day. According to Dr. David Himmelstein, "three-quarters of people who say that illness was a major factor in their bankruptcy had private health insurance, at least when they first got sick."

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