A house of cards made from dollar bills

How Does Cost Influence Lung Cancer Management?

The lung cancer treatment path can be long, bumpy, and expensive. The cost of diagnostic tests, scans, imaging, drugs, surgery, and more can quickly add up. People living with lung cancer face many tough decisions that impact their physical, emotional, and financial health.

As part of our 4th Annual Lung Cancer In America survey, we asked respondents to tell us more about how the cost of treatment influenced how they managed their condition. More than 800 people with lung cancer completed the survey, providing a view of the financial considerations that come with this diagnosis.

Employment and insurance play a role

Being employed and having health insurance helps reduce some of the financial pressures surrounding lung cancer treatment.

The majority of survey respondents – 55 percent – said they are fully retired. Only 19 percent are employed full-time, while 5 percent are employed part-time. However, 19 percent of respondents are on disability. More than half of all respondents – 51 percent – have an annual household income of less than $55,000.

Regardless of whether a person is retired or employed, health insurance is a major factor in how people are able to manage lung cancer. Most respondents have at least 1 form of insurance coverage, and 64 percent also have secondary or supplemental coverage.

Of those with primary health insurance:

  • 54 percent have Medicare
  • 31 percent have group or employer coverage
  • 5 percent have Medicaid
  • 4 percent have private insurance
  • 3 percent have insurance purchased through the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange
  • 3 percent have military coverage (DOD), VA, or Tricare

Of those with secondary or supplemental coverage:

  • 54 percent have Medicare
  • 27 percent have Medicare Part D (prescription drug benefit)
  • 14 percent have private/group supplemental coverage
  • 14 percent have prescription drug coverage that is separate from their health insurance

How does cost influence lung cancer management decisions?

Survey responses show that people with lung cancer are mainly concerned about how well their medicine or treatment worked rather than the cost.

Nearly half of survey respondents – 49 percent – shared that the main reason for choosing their medicine/treatment plan was its effectiveness. Interestingly, 23 percent of respondents said their treatment was chosen because it was the only option available to them. Other factors that influenced treatment decisions included:

  • Potential side effects of medicine/treatment (16 percent)
  • Location for receiving medicine or treatment (13 percent)
  • How the medicine is given, such as pill or IV form (8 percent)
  • Length of time on treatment (8 percent)
  • Long-term safety of the medicine/treatment (7 percent)

However, health insurance and cost were factors for some respondents:

  • Insurance coverage/insurance selected medicine (12 percent)
  • Availability of financial assistance or copay program (5 percent)
  • Cost of the medicine or treatment (3 percent)

Lung cancer’s impact on household finances

Living a full life while managing lung cancer is possible, and many are doing so. More than 60 percent of survey respondents feel their lung cancer is well controlled on their current treatment plan, but at what cost?

Between prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, and other lung cancer therapies, more than one-third said their lung cancer treatment had reduced their financial status.

  • 35 percent note lung cancer has had a considerable to significant negative impact on their household finances
  • 18 percent have used a financial support program to help pay for prescription drugs within the past 6 months
  • 5 percent have avoided or stopped using a medicine because of its cost within the past 6 months

Would you like to share your experiences?

The 4th Annual Lung Cancer In America survey was held online from January through June 2020. The survey was completed by 804 people.

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