A new study from the American Cancer Society finds higher medical and nonmedical financial hardships are independently associated with more emergency department (ED) visits, lower receipt of some preventive services, and worse self-rated health in cancer survivors. As health care costs grow, unmet medical and nonmedical financial needs may worsen health disparities among cancer survivors, according to the study authors.

The intent of the study was to bring awareness to the medical and nonmedical financial hardships of cancer and how they can impact the use of preventive services, since there is little research available to evaluate this topic, according to the study authors. These hardships include food insecurity, psychological and behavioral challenges, work limitations or inability to work, and loss of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage.

Researchers looked at responses from approximately 12,000 cancer survivors in the National Health Interview Survey (2013-2017), categorizing survivors into 2 age groups: 18 to 64 years of age and 65 years of age and older.

Cancer survivors with higher medical and nonmedical financial hardship intensities were consistently more likely to report any ED visit and rated their health status worse than those with lower hardship intensities, according to the researchers. Individuals with the highest level of hardship intensity also had lower levels of influenza vaccination and breast cancer screening.

"Given greater patient cost sharing and rapid development of expensive cancer treatments, the experience of medical and nonmedical financial hardship is likely to increase and may exacerbate cancer-related health disparities," the study authors said in a press release.

Study links financial hardship to more ED visits; less preventive care. EurekAlert! https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-06/acs-slf061620.php. Published June 18, 2020. Accessed June 18, 2020.