Sweet Charity: Nonprofits Help Pay for Cancer Drugs, Insurance
Many nonprofit organizations aid patients in paying for their cancer drugs or health insurance.
PUBLISHED: NOVEMBER 16, 2016
Diagnosed with cancer when she was already having financial difficulties, MARIANNE MORGAN was able to complete her medical treatments with help from the nonprofit HealthWell, which provides grants to eligible patients. - PHOTO BY STEPHANIE BOUGH
“I went to pick up my medication, and it came to $480, which I didn’t have,” she remembers. “I went home and told my partner, ‘I can’t afford this; we don’t have the money.’ I felt like I’d reached the bottom of the barrel.”
Morgan is by no means alone. According to the American Cancer Society, the total direct cost of cancer treatment in the United States was $88.7 billion in 2011. Since then, costs have continued to rise.
New and promising drugs and treatments are rapidly being brought to market, but often come with astronomical costs. According to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the average price of new drugs has been increasing by 10 percent annually since 1995, or about $8,500 a year.
Cancer care can be particularly expensive, with some of the newer targeted drugs or immunotherapies — often only part of a patient’s medication regimen — costing in the neighborhood of $100,000 for a year’s worth of treatment. The amount patients are reimbursed for these costs can vary, depending on their insurers and plans.
The prevalence of such health care woes has resulted in a new term: financial toxicity, defined as any financial harm that patients experience as a result of the cost of their treatment.
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