More than half of individuals who are diagnosed with cancer end up in some form of medical debt, and 53% of those individuals have a debt that ends up in collection, according to data that was released yesterday by the American Cancer Society. Three-quarters of those who are diagnosed said that they were unprepared for the financial toll that having the disease would place on the and their families.
The ACS conducted a poll of 1,200 cancer patients last month to collect its research and found that 35% currently have unpaid medical bills and only 32% were able to pay their bills without incurring any debt. Only 16% have paid off debts that were incurred as a result of being treated for cancer.
For those who incurred medical debt, more than 50% had at least $5,000 and 22% had more than $10,000, according to the survey. More than 25% of the respondents were in debt for at least three years and 46% said that their credit scores had dropped because of unpaid medical bills.
Accumulating medical debts after being diagnosed with cancer has led many to delay other important financial decisions or make changes to their situations while also avoiding being treated for other illnesses. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents said they have delayed medical care for minor issues and 45% have done so for serious issues. Many have been forced to put off vacations or other major purchases, and to cut back on food, clothing, and other basic household expenses.
Ultimately, 16% of cancer patients said that they have suffered negative setbacks, such as a delayed diagnosis or longer recovery times or recurrences of the disease as a result of the financial toll that the diagnosis and treatment has taken.