Letter From the Editor: Paying for Cancer Care

CURE, Supplement 2013, Volume 0, Issue 0

CURE's editor addresses the high cost of cancer care.

Patients are now shouldering a higher burden of paying for their medical care. It happens at every corner—deductibles, high drug costs, larger bills from an increasing array of doctors, and stratospheric prices of tests, such as tissue assays and imaging studies. Fold in the complexity and intensity of cancer care, and the result is a convergence of costs that is often out of reach. This is what motivated CURE to bring you this supplement.

We are conditioned to believe that the best care should be had at any cost. We expect that the most effective treatment and the latest and best technologies will always be recommended and preferred. This expectation is constantly reinforced by movies, TV shows and news headlines. However, as consumers of health care, patients need to not only be prepared, but to have a strategic plan to avoid “financial toxicity.”

We are conditioned to believe that the best care should be had at any cost. We expect that the most effective treatment and the latest and best technologies will always be recommended and preferred.

The good news is that the medical establishment, while partly responsible for spiraling costs, can also be part of the solution to the squeeze that many patients feel in their wallet. The key is to be proactive and honest when sticker shock hits. Patients may be surprised when their nurse or doctor volunteers an equally effective or a safe second option. Or when an administrator takes the time to clarify or waive an overzealous charge.

While high-tech tests and designer biologic drugs do account for much of the cost burden on patients, disruption of work and loss of income, as well as new daily living expenses are equally destabilizing. We believe that patients can protect themselves, to some extent, simply by being armed with knowledge ahead of time, knowing the factors that can lead to runaway costs, hearing enlightening personal stories and learning where there is room for negotiation.

This supplement is a “must read” for cancer patients and their loved ones who are in this together. We provide insights and tips that can help at different junctures of care, questions to ask ahead of time, and information on how to formulate alternate plans to treatment recommendations that may break the bank.

Patients should not have to travel the cancer journey alone, nor should they be passive about the costs that invariably accompany the voyage.

Debu Tripathy, MD

Editor-in-Chief

Professor of Medicine, University of Southern California

Co-Leader, Women’s Cancer Program at the USC/Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center