Bankruptcy Doubles with Cancer Diagnosis in Washington State

Patients diagnosed with cancer,  particularly young people, with go bankrupt at double the rate of controls. 

Adults diagnosed with cancer are 2.65 times more likely to declare bankruptcy than adults without cancer, according to a new study.

In addition, bankruptcy rates are 2- to 5-fold higher among younger cancer patients than among older cancer patients, report the study authors, led by Scott Ramsey, MD, PhD, an internist and health economist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington.


The authors found that bankruptcy filing rates differed “greatly” by age in the cancer patients. Younger people with cancer experienced the highest bankruptcy rates for all types of cancer. Bankruptcy filing rates were much lower for cancer patients 65 years and older than for those younger than 65 years.

There is an explanation for the age-related risk for bankruptcy, the authors note. “People age 65 or older generally have Medicare insurance and Social Security benefits…. It is likely that having stable insurance (specifically, coverage not tied to employment) plays a major role in mitigating the risk of bankruptcy,” they state.

Medicynical Note:  Anyone surprised?  A cancer diagnosis can be devastating and extremely expensive to deal with.  Most people, that is, those who live on an average income have problems paying the out of pocket expenses associated with the diagnosis, even if they are working and insured. 

Tying insurance to employment means that when a person becomes ill and can no longer work he/she loses their insurance—unless they can pay the inflated premium to continue individual coverage.

The system is designed to be a financial burden on the sick and infirm and to protect insurers.   Only in America!

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